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The Nigerian Presidency and a review on Edo State government

By Dan F. Harper
Published November 21st, 2010

When the former President, Umaru Yar'Adua became ill, and it was at some point becoming terminal, most people were afraid of what might happen next with the presidency and subsequent presidential race in the event he passes.

I am not particularly surprised to read and hear that people are clamoring for Jonathan to run for the Presidency. Realistically and logically, it would make sense for him to run. There is not a clause, in The Zoning that relates to the premature death of a sitting president or his/her inability to perform as President for many various reasons. The United States has been through something similar. When President Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson became the president. Taking into consideration the part of the country that Johnson was from, many Americans in that political party could have asked that Johnson not run for re-election, however they felt it would be senseless to do so.

I am not aware of a clause in the PDP constitution that addresses whether or not the Zoning system that affected the current Presidency would apply to the newly appointed President, should the current president pass before the second term, meaning whether or not a candidate from that same zone should be picked to run for presidency. Unless there is such a clause, the party has no supporting arguments for their stance. If there is not any related clause, perhaps the political parties in Nigeria should address this and incorporate such a clause in their party constitution. Without such a clause, those that have endorsed Jonathan to run for presidency have legitimate reasons to do so.

We have to also keep in mind that we are dealing with “constituency” here. Irrespective of what others in the country may think, the people in Jonathan’s constituency, his friends, those that are benefiting from his presidency, and others that did not support Umaru, will most certainly support, and endorse, Jonathan to run for presidency. He is doing just that. He has listened to his base. Many people in his place would have done the same. After all, he is the President, with so much resources available to him. This is human nature and is not intended with malice. As long as Jonathan continues to perform as he is now, we may find that he has more zones endorsement.

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Some men of God have predicted doom if Jonathan runs. Biblically speaking, they could be speaking philosophically as well. The doom that is being referred to, may be, that the North will feel that they have been denied proper representation in Presidency, for many terms now. Actually, since the new Democracy has been in place, the North has not really been in Presidency, with the exception of the short stint of President Umaru Yar'Adua. However, there are those that feel that since President Umaru was in office at all, that the North was represented. If President Jonathan is re-elected, which some say he rightfully deserves, there will be a possibility of anarchy, within the country, by the Northerners in a major controlling party like PDP, who would feel denied. History has taught us that the North is not excessively tolerant of such.

Between now and when the primaries begin, there may be a lot of political maneuvering that will occur, which will affect IBB’s options.

Does that mean “dooms day” is eminent within the country? I only hope that we will find a political resolve, within the parties, over the next couple of months. Whether we are dealing with tribal or regional abyss, or those that are fanatically supporting what they believe is their birthright, I would think that PDP members from the North should be prouder to be Nigerians, than simply a party, when dealing with these issues.

With the allegation of the annulment of June 12 and the killing of Dele Giwa, does IBB stands a chance at the presidency? I believe that anyone has a chance at winning the Presidency. What is important is to focus on what is realistic and who will the country most benefit from.

I have always held issue with former military leaders, like Buhari and Obasanjo and now IBB, that try to come back into power. It would be best if they could all take after Gowon. Yes, his exit route was different, but he has completely stayed away from politics. I really do not see anything that IBB did while previously in control of the country that he needs to finish now, as a politician. As an example, the Naira devalued greatly during his term. In 1982, I believe it was at $1.50 to N1 and by the time power transferred to Abacha, it was hovering around $1.00 to N80. This is not a good economic record to boast of.

It was during Abacha’s rule that the Naira maintained its stiffest stance against devalue to any currency. From a selfish point, I would like IBB to come and rule again, but from a more pragmatic point, I would not support his return. If IBB really cared about the welfare of this country, he should have supported a more viable candidate to show us that he is not power hungry and explain to us why he supports that candidate.

When Obasanjo came as a civilian leader, he found out very quickly that things were different from when he was a military leader. During his civilian term, he publicly bullied many persons, one of which was while he was in Atlanta on a presidential trip, with Andrew Young in attendance, where he intentionally intimidated a gentleman that asked him a question. In many respects, I feel OBASANJO was a disgrace to this nation, as a leader, from a public relations standpoint. People that know how I felt about IBB in the past will be surprised to hear me say, that from a selfish standpoint, I would support his return to politics and leadership. As some of you may know, I was one of those that championed the protest in 2001 against Generals Mohamodu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan and General Abdusalami Abubakar, on a cold morning in Chicago, and further served Abubakar with the summons. The charges we brought against those leaders were on the grounds of; torture, wrongful death, arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, inhuman degrading treatment, violation of the right to life, liberty and security of person and peaceful assembly and association, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress. Then again, we also know that in politics there are neither permanent enemies nor permanent friends.

I believe in giving people second chances. I believe IBB wants to right the wrongs he has done. I also believe that he will be a better leader for Nigeria, under a democratic process, than Obasanjo was. However, attempting to come back, again, is the equivalent of saying that Nigeria is short of good leaders, which is an insult to the polity of this country.

I believe the passing of President Umaru has thrown turmoil into the political landscape of Nigeria, thrown the PDP into a state of topsy-turvy and has collapsed the political zoning system within the PDP electoral leadership. I believe that from a political perspective, the passing of President Umaru Yar'Adua's, was the last thing that IBB expected or wanted to happen. There are those that clamoured for President Jonathan to run, that hitherto, had kept their opinions to themselves because of the zoning system in place, and then there are those that are hoping IBB will run under another party instead of PDP, with the pool getting filled with folks like Ribadu and others in the race. The problem is, there is not another political party in Nigeria, at this time that has a more grassroots foundation Nationally than PDP. Nigerians do not believe in holding on to sentiments and using them against those that are running for power.

If this were the United States, IBB would not even win the nomination for presidency in his party, but Nigerians are different. Therefore, I do not think the issues concerning the annulment of the June 12 election, or the death of Dele Giwa, will hinder IBB’s chances of running or winning the presidency. Having said that, if I were handling his image building, publicity, and public relations, I would have advised him to handle the media differently from how he is doing so now. I believe he is going about it entirely wrong and should start thinking beyond the primaries or election process and start thinking of it from a long-term perspective. IBB needs a complete image overhaul and there are several ways to do that. Ultimately, he should come across as a new and different person, moving away from the perception most people have of him, both in and outside of the country. It may be financially costly to do so, but if he proceeds with his current image, it may be politically costly. People, like us, helped to paint his image the way it was rightfully depicted, via the internet and foreign media, and IBB should use that same medium to correct his image. IBB and his public relations team need to go to the WAR ROOM and come up with a plan, because not answering reporter’s questions, or getting upset when reporters ask him questions, about June 12 or Dele Giwa is not the right approach.

At this junction, it is good to address Oshiomhole’s government in Edo state that will be two yrs this month.

For the first time in many years, the Edo people are seeing the light. I know that it is sometimes difficult to see what the Governor is doing, with the enormous problems that the State faces. However, I believe that under the administration of Oshiomhole, we can agree that more is being done now, than we have seen since the administration of Ogbemudia. This governor understands that infrastructure is the bedrock of any economy and has awarded more realistic road contracts than any other governor. The operative word here is "realistic". If you see the blueprints for some of these contracts, you will see what the completed roads will look like, and you will get emotional for Edo State. This being said, I still believe there are many things the governor can do to enhance these projects. I am highly disappointed that all of these ongoing laudable road projects include the construction of gutters. Gutters are the most costly form of an irrigation system and definitely constitute the greatest health hazard. The money being used to construct gutters could have been used for other projects and that is a waste in my opinion.

I blame the perceived Technocrats in the administration that are charged with advising the governor in that regard. I also think the governor should start thinking of how to generate power in the State. NEPA has the best distribution network in Africa; their problem is not the network, but the generation of power. Edo state has the resources to generate and maintain a constant power supply. I am aware that the governor has some other plans for the state that he has not executed yet, but there are some things that could be done simultaneously that would not cost the government any additional money, from what is being done right now.

In Edo State we have three viable dams, and every household should have a 24/7 supply of pipe borne water. Arizona, in the United States, is a desert state, but they have a constant water supply that is pipe borne from the Colorado River to every household. If they can provide a pipe borne water supply to every household, Edo State, with three dams, should be able to maintain the same. It is retrogression, that a state that once had pipe borne water available 24/7, in almost every household, until the 80’s, now prides itself with boreholes in houses. That is a shame.

Yesterday, governor Oshiomhole commissioned two drilling rigs that could go as far as 4,200-feet below the earth surface, as reported by Guardian. What is the future potential of those rigs in addressing short water supply? How does such technology measure against other technologies that could take us to the next decades and centuries? Does the government really need to have a hand in providing water supply to the people? Or, it is its place to provide the ground work for such? Privatization is still the best answer. There are other viable technologies that can provide constant water supply to every household in Edo State. Is the governor telling us that before settling for these drilling rigs, he has taken critical look at all other options and felt this is the least expensive and most effective water supply system? This should have been in the report provided by the governor. Or, is the state government doing what it thinks is enough to get by? Governor Oshiomhole said, “No one should tell us that in Esanland, borehole is not viable.” I disagree. Borehole is retrogression.

The governor has taken us farther than we have been in a long time and to that, we thank him. I think the governor needs to overhaul his administration. There are too many lay ducks that are either afraid to suggest things to the governor or just maintaining the status quo and collecting their paychecks. With an energetic governor like the Comrade, there should be no room for those types of people in this administration. The governor is trying, but there are still too many missing pieces, that he needs to put in place..

Revenue generation is an integral part of a government; most survive on that alone and usually come up many creative ways to generate it. That is apart from domestic products, which I do not believe is what you are asking. I think that what the state should do is to pursue self-reliance through diversification of revenue resources, which can be done in different ways. The government should also broaden its local revenue base. Presently, I think the government, or the board of internal revenue service, in the state, has limited its channels and I really do not know why. Given the circumstances, if you consider that the revenue generation in the State has increased tremendously under the Board's leadership of Dr. Owie, one would commend them for a job well done.

The Board of Internal Revenue Service needs the support of the governor. If the Board is collecting against a business, and in turn is required to shut them down for non-payment of taxes, the governor should support the Board. It should be formally announced that the Board is a separate entity, that is completely independent of the governor’s office, and their decisions are not to be overridden by the current administration. Therefore, no business should approach the Governor’s office for tax relief, as this is actually circumventing the Boards efforts, and is detrimental to the state as a whole. It is important to note that the Board is doing well in the sectors that they are executing but there are many other sectors, which they have not attempted to tap into. One of which would be property taxes.

I understand there are political ramifications of the government coming up with property taxes at this point, but we cannot forget how much we are losing in that regard. We also need an effective and progressive taxation system, e.g. markets, parks, etc. For example, I do not feel we are as effective as we could be in collecting revenue from markets and should do better. I also do not think our main problem now is revenue generation. What happens next? I think in order for the Board of Internal Revenue Service to be effective, we have to bring the Budget department into play, as they are critical in the economic development of the state. The goal of the government should be reinventing public finance and management. We should have responsible financial management and prudent Balance Budget requirements. The State government should institute a prudent budgetary practice by establishing a budget amendment, that will ensure government spending is kept within budgeted limits, and that civil servants and pensioners are paid their entitlements when due. More importantly, this will ensure that when contracts are awarded, the funds are available to pay for these projects. To this end, the governor and his administration should identify all sources of funds to the State and their annual amounts. One of those is the revenue generated by the Board of Internal Revenue Service. This will help the administration allocate these funds to the different program priorities within the government. In this regard, the spending programs are usually broken into two expanded categories, which are MANDATORY and DISCRETIONARY. As we know, Mandatory programs fall under what is generally called governmental funds. This will include, but is not limited to, the general operating funds, special revenue funds, capital project funds, debt service, and other obligations that will fall under this mandatory expense in the budget.

Usually, the operating budget will be based on the needs of the various ministries, or departments, of government, e.g., executive, education, agriculture, health, judiciary, etc. The capital improvement program budget should be spread across all the local government areas based on the needs and priorities of the various localities and the executive. For this to work, the governor should sponsor a balance budget amendment to the state constitution. This will ensure that the present administration and all future administrations can no longer run a deficit budget, which runs the risk of financial crisis in the state. The balance budget amendment bill will also help with public accountability and transparency. Therefore, you see that when we talk of revenue generation, of which I think the present Board Chairman, Dr. Owie, is doing a fantastic job, we have to speak of public finance and management also. That is the only way we can make sure that the revenue that is being generated by that board goes to the appropriate place for proper execution.

One of the ways the government can improve the economy is by bringing in foreign investors. In order to do that, there will need to be constant water supply, electricity, good roads, and more importantly, security. We can spend hours talking to foreign investors, but with the security situation in this state, it will never be fruitful. Personally, I know many companies abroad that are interested in investing in Edo State, to setup manufacturing or packaging companies, due to the lower cost of labor and the natural resources we have available, but they are afraid of coming due to safety issues.

These are jobs lost to the indigenes, but also a lost source of revenue for the state. Some of these companies manufacture goods for export, which could lead to additional revenue as well. In my opinion, the governor can do several things to arrest the security situation within the state. First, police monitored checkpoints should be eliminated, reducing crimes created through bribes. The National police chief stated recently on national television, that checkpoints used for collecting bribes did not exist. Well, he was either straight up being disingenuous, is lost within realities, or has never been to Edo State, where the police give change to people after collecting the bribes at check points. Perhaps the police chief should drive public transportation, full of passengers, to a checkpoint to determine first hand if bribes are being accepted.

In terms of security, there should be top-down accountability on the part of the police department. The governor should hold a weekly security meeting with the police chief, the director of economic development, members of the Security Council, and the SSAs in those areas as well. Prior to attending the weekly meetings, the police chief should have already held meetings with his lieutenants, as well. To help with this, there should be a partnership with civil society, communities, and neighborhoods and the government should invest in innovative community based policing and neighborhood watch arrangements. The government should provide complimentary support for Nigerian Police work in the State through logistics and material provisions. Something that has been pushed to the wayside, and should be reincorporated, is to vigorously pursue implementation of the National Civil Defense Corps initiative. Since the State has border issues, it should establish a framework for dealing with community and inter-state border clashes through early warning, detection, and prevention. There are blueprints already setup for this, all the governor would need to do is to tap into them.

What is going on now in the state, in terms of security, is nothing that cannot be curtailed. All we need is a good sense of purpose, and a realization that the governor cannot do this himself. That is where those that he has within his administration should step in. Without addressing the security issues, we cannot begin to address the possibility of foreign investors in Edo state and more importantly, an effective privatisation system. Each time the lives of the people are threatened, the unrest affects the economy of the state, via the private sector. I would like to thank the Oba of Benin for all that he has done to help arrest the security issues. However, we will need more than that. The police department is not making this easy for the Governor of the State, Comrade Oshiomhole, who is already doing a lot for the state. The Police commissioner of the state should pick up the slack; this is a joint accountability and responsibility..

While I believe the Governor of Edo State is making head way in many areas of the state, another area that I believe needs more attention is “urban environmental aesthetic and cleanliness”. What is interesting here is that the government can accomplish this task without spending a lot of money, by simply enforcing the existing city codes and ordinances to bring about urban and even rural environmental aesthetic and cleanliness. The government has to find a way to involve the citizens in this. In order for this work, effective urban planning will need to be in place to curtail urban sprawl through decentralization of services and to facilitate development in regional centers. This will also assist to discourage congestion in the capital city and other major cities within the state capital. An example of this would be for the governor can announce that, “Effective immediately, all buildings in commercial roads must have store fronts. No one may have their merchandise beyond the store front.” The city ordinances are already there. Another example would be that all existing gutters that are open must be covered and all future road construction must not include gutters, but rather proper irrigation systems. Even in the United States, there are no gutters, because they breed mosquitoes. It is also important that there be open separation of responsibilities between the state government and the local government. The citizens of Edo State do not currently know what is the responsibility of the State government, or the local government, in order to appropriately place credit, or blame, to issues that may arise. Currently, most citizens believe that all issues belong to the state government.

Do I think Comrade Oshiomhole is doing a great job? I think he is doing a fantastic job, but I question the abilities of some of the technocrats he has within his administration. Oshiomhole is like a messiah to Edo State and is someone that listens. While I believe that many of the technocrats are some of the best in their fields, I do not feel that they are giving the Comrade their all. There are so many things this government can do to fine-tune what is already being done, and many of the technocrats can do that for the Comrade. What I see is a group of people that seem to be content with what is being done, when so much more can be done, and their intellectual contribution could enhance it.

Comrade Oshiomhole was recently in Atlanta to attend an EDO SUMMIT where he made a powerful speech. I believe in him, and so do most others, but what infrastructure does the state government have in place, right now, that will make the contributions from the EDOS at the Summit, possible? Why do we not have a 24/7, pipe borne, water supply in the state? Why do we not have constant 24/7, electricity in the state?

What plans does the government have for public transportation, that will alleviate the menace we are encountering on the streets of various major cities and towns, on behalf of “OKADA”? Why does the State government in conjunction with some of the local governments not have buses on the streets in partnership with the private sector? What is the plan for the state to get ready for the internet world when that is the direction of commerce today?

All of these questions can be addressed, and corrected without the state government going broke. This is where the technocrats in the government should steer the governor in the right direction. The Comrade cannot do this alone. That is my assessment of the government.

Mr. Dan Harper is a United States based marketing consultant and one time DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FOR THE SENATOR ROLAND OWIE 2003 GOVERNORSHIP CAMPAIGN. As a marketing consultant, he develops and leads global segment marketing efforts for specialty products, for a variety of industrial applications, with a focus in the areas of; marketing strategy, determining product offerings to customer segments, leading new product development & commercialization, product sourcing, competitive intelligence, and setting the global pricing strategy.

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