by Tim Akano
Nigeria is in a sorry state of political, economic and social flux that lies beyond the powers of Autocorrect algorithms.
The paragraphs below x-ray the seven myths shredded by the February 25th presidential elections, the seven lessons learned, the seven must-win battles and the seven quick wins for the incoming president if he truly desires to bring HOPE back home.
‘’Why were there no jubilations or demonstrations on the streets across Nigeria when INEC handed over certificate of return to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu ( A-BAT) as President-elect in the wee hours of March 1st 2023, as it happened in 1960 with Balewa, 1979, Shaghari, 1999, OBJ, 2011, GEJ and 2015, PMB’’, someone asked me? My answer: HOPE is on sabbatical. Supporters of the two camps are suffering from the same disease: empty stomach, empty pocket, and empty tank. To shout either Hallelujah or Aluta continua, you need fuel in your stomach and tank .Nigerians have had their hopes raised and crushed not once, not twice but time and time again. When people no longer see hope in their homes, communities, country or even on the horizon, what is left is wholesale ‘’wahala’’. There is no faith without hope, both exist like Siamese twins, working hand-in-hand. Nigerians are justifiably paranoid now, having been shocked far beyond the state of shockability, thus the reason why the majority is indifferent to governance, especially the professionals who have managed to build a self-help ecosystem to survive independently of government, and they scarcely can wait to move on with their lives after the March 11th election. This is a dangerous state for a country: where 75% of the citizens have mentally logged out. How else can one explain that out 93 million registered voters, and an even smaller 27% or 25.3million of them came out to exercise their civic responsibility, with the number favouring the youth and first-timer electors (freshly brain-washed on social media thinking there is one Messiah with quick fix magic wand in the contest). Some of those who went to the poll admitted that they had to choose what they termed, ‘’one of the lesser evils’’. Meanwhile, the remaining 75% with voters card who refused to go out to vote on the 25th reasoned that there is no place in the scripture that admonished people to choose among evils rather the scripture warned people to ‘’abstain from every evil’’. The alarming steady erosion of voters’ confidence in our polity should be a source of concern for the President-elect. The bottom line is: Nigerians are living currently the worst of the worst situation: food-less, cash-less, hope-less. Can BAT bell the cat?
It is an inexplicable paradox that Nigeria has become the world’s poverty capital with about 133 million chronic and acutely hungry citizens. Is there any social scientist who can explain the puzzle that the world’s 6th largest producer of oil, 9th largest LNG reserve, 2nd largest bitumen reserve, with iron ore, gold, diamond, lithium, uranium, bauxite, manganese, Tin, Fluorite, coal, and Zircon- just to name a few of the over 312 known mineral resources available in Nigeria in commercial quantities, still remains so poor? Have you ever bothered to ask why China keeps buying tens of thousands of hectares of land in Nigeria and across Africa, fencing as they go? What they do behind the fenced wall remains a mystery to us all. Every night foreign nations with helicopter pack Zamfara sand to overseas as every of their sand is mixed with gold.
Furthermore, Nigeria has about 40% arable land (compared with Japan: 11.36%, Israel 17%, Saudi Arabia 1.6%, Singapore 0.95%) i.e. 34 million hectares for permanent crops, meadows and pastures. Nigeria also possess some of the best timber species like Oak, mahogany, teak, and walnut in abundance; Nigeria is free from deadly natural disasters, which cannot be said for other countries: typhoons in Philippines (Philippines has about 25 a year), earthquakes in Turkey, Iran and Japan, Hurricane in America, killer-floods in Indonesia (30% of Indonesia is still under water as I write, pen-in-hand), forest fires in Brazil and Australia. On top of it all, Nigeria is blessed with a vibrant population of about 220 million with youth making up 52% of this number–ask Israel, UAE, China, Japan and Europe about the importance of size.
If we have all this–and definitely more–why then, why are we poor, hungry, with no modern infrastructure? Why is Nigeria bereaved of international respectability in the comity of nations? Why is ‘’everyone’’ running away from Nigeria? In 2022, there was an increase of 686% growth in the number of student visa applications to the UK alone. Almost every Nigerian youth wants to JAPA!
Can the president-elect and his team tame the gargantuan storm ravaging Nigeria, or are they coming with the mind-set of “it- is- our turn–to chop and enjoy”? Contextually, a country with natural disasters seems luckier than a country with people disasters! Discuss, using Nigeria and Japan as reference!
7 Myths Shattered on February 25th
1. That king-makers don’t become Kings. That myth was shattered when A-BAT was crowned around 4 am on March 1st, awaiting coronation on May 29th.
2. That Generals don’t make revolutions. A-BAT in the last 30 years has faced multiple political and military Generals in several battles, which is akin to revolution. A-BAT is like a 4-Star political General, his life, like that of Napoleon, is that of constant war of survival, he knew when to fight and when to retreat and run. BAT knows when to siddon look like a bat, too. He confronted formidable war-tested military Generals like IBB, Abacha, OBJ, and PMB and he prevailed in all his battles. But more battles still lie ahead: May 29th coronation is one, Supreme Court is another, and most importantly, if he summons those two, can he make a difference as President /Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian armed forces or he will just be another number (N016) in the list of Nigeria failed leaders?
3. That in plural societies like Nigeria, the same-faith presidential ticket is dead on arrival. It seems as if A-BAT is about to break the jinx. What he does after May 29th will be under constant scrutiny by the Christian community and justifiably so. The first 7 appointments he makes will define him for the rest of his life. If I were A-BAT, I will appoint a Christian as Secretary to the Federal Government, and I will do another unthinkable thing: appoint a strong Christian woman as Chief of Staff, the first of its kind in Nigeria’s history. This way, the unthinkable equation of the same faith presidential ticket that made the bulk of the Christian community turn against him is balanced and the rising temperature will begin to drop automatically while the bad blood created will be healed. Why not, who says a woman can’t be a better Chief of Staff than a man, women are more resilient, resolute and less vulnerable.
4. That there is a one-on-one relationship between social media popularity and political victory. Social media influencers are like General Practitioners and doctors in the hospital, they are limited in what they can cure, such things as headaches, but certainly not heart or eye surgery. A politician who celebrates his success based on social media opinion polls is like counting one’s chickens before they are hatched. Relying heavily on social media influencers is like a man suffering from eye cataracts and he goes to a GP for surgery- he will go blind and God help him if he presents the two eyes for operation at the same time!
5. That currency redesigning is a powerful antidote to corruption and vote buying. It didn’t work in India, it failed in Nigeria. The masses in the two countries were just made to suffer for nothing.
6. That Youth Power is the HCF (Highest Common Factor) in electoral victory. Nigeria as a heterogeneous society does not have and cannot have, a homogenous youth movement that will sing from the same hymn book.
7. That voter registration and PVC collection rate are the drivers of voter turnout rate. No. In 2023, out of 93.5 million registered voters, only 25.3 million came out, a measly 27%.
7 Lessons Learned
1. That power is not served a la carte, it is a buffet.
2. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Due to selfishness and rapacious greed, the umbrella got torn into 3, and the rain beat everyone under the umbrella.
3. Insularity in a heterogeneous society leads to failure at the national level.
4. In the game of power, emotional intelligence carries 70%, while IQ carries 30%. Even in the animal kingdom, the cattle that leads is not necessarily the one with the highest IQ but the one with the best EQ. That is why 1st class work for 3rd class in the business world, too. Discuss!
5. Every election is local because electors and the local power bases determine almost everything. Investing so much energy in seeking external validation and endorsement is not as important as building a formidable house internally. All those sponsored expensive articles in New York Times, The London Economist, Financial Times, CNN, and Austrian Times endorsing a candidate do not necessarily translate into victory.
6. Voter apathy is real and growing worse every 4 years since 1999: voters turn out in 1990 vis-à-vis registered voters was 53%, 2003, 69%, 2007,58%, 2011, 54%, 2015,44%, 2019, 35%, 2023, 27%. 2027, you guess?
7. Que Sera Sera, aka ‘what will be will be”:
Steve Jobs, the Apple genius, shortly before he died admitted that even though he had worked so hard to achieve power, fame, influence and money (Apple, his company, was the first in the world to hit a Trillion dollars mark in revenue), the more he situated life contextually, the more he realised there was an invisible force, a more powerful spirit than man, that determines the affairs of man. Coming from Steve Jobs, who was not religious, this should make people think again: Power, truly, belongs to God. Discuss.
7 Must–Win- Battles
1. GENERATION Z (GEN Z) – the generation of people born in the late 1990s and early 2000 who are seen as confident users of new technology. Right now, they are hungry, angry and feel hopeless. Abandoning them at the Hopelessness bus stop- as the past governments have done is dangerous, it is like signing an undated MoU with Dante inferno. I know this to be an incontrovertible fact because our NGO, One Africa Initiatives, empowers youth across Africa. If I were the President-elect, I would give 3 slots to members of GEN Z in my cabinet. One new portfolio I will create for a GEN-Z to supervise is Minister for the FUTURE. UAE has something similar, headed by a twenty-something-year-old GEN-Z. It is their lives, they deserve to have a say: if they want to live in SPACE in 50 years’ time, let them talk about it and begin the plan from today. Or what do you think?
2. Ethnic and religious Tension. We lie when we try to gloss over this. It is real, strong and breathing, its vibration can break Nigeria’s massive “dam”, if not addressed holistically and timely.
3. Insecurity: Nigeria is regarded as the 2nd most terrorised country in the world.
4. Weak and mono economy: every government since independence has been paying lip service to the diversification of the economy.
5. Rising and unserviceable debt. IMF projection that 100% of inflow may be used to service Nigeria’s debt is enough to keep the President-elect awake till 3 am.
6. Colonialism 2.0: foreign powers including China are indirectly impoverishing Nigeria.
7. How do we transition from a country to a nation-state, without which Nigeria cannot become great?
The 3Rs options: Restructure, Repair or Retain the status quo
1. If the President-elect desires to be a GREAT PRESIDENT, like Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia, Sheikh Zayed Sultan Al Nahyan of UAE, Ben Gurion of Israel, Abraham Lincoln of America, the pathway to greatness for the President-elect and country is RESTRUCTURING of the country. UAE did not become great by accident, their leader restructured the country to greatness. Great Presidents are FIRST CLASS leaders: their legacies endure forever.
2. If the President-Elect’s ambition is only to be a GOOD PRESIDENT, i.e. 2nd CLASS Leader like Jerry Rawlings, he should REPAIR the country. To do this he needs to get a team of serious-minded professionals who will do a Gap-analysis of Nigeria: what capabilities do we have? What capabilities do we need? How do we get what we don’t have? When and how? No assurance that the legacies will not be uprooted after some years, though.
3. If the President–elect wants to be like most of his predecessors, 3RD CLASS LEADERS with no commensurate achievements vis-à-vis the resources at their disposal, he should do what the past Presidents and their Teams did: take care of their personal pockets through the CBN multiple exchange Dollar rates, NNPC oil block allocation among other classic ponzi contracts that add little value to the Common Good. But if I were the President-elect, I will overhaul the FEC weekly meeting where contracts are awarded. It is a complete waste of the President’s executive time to sit for 5 hours discussing contracts. What are the Tender Boards meant for?
7 Quick Wins
1 NATIONAL JAPA INITIATIVE (NJI).
Nigeria is not broke but rather, suffers from a famine of innovative ideas and poor execution of stolen ideas. The President-elect can raise over $100 billion within the next 15 months, not from oil, or gas but by implementing NJI and other innovative ideas. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is the second major source of foreign capital after value-added exports in the Philippines. In 2022 alone, Philippines overseas workers remitted close to $35 billion back to their country. The incoming president should look into BPO as alternative revenue avenue. There are new opportunities in BPO which Nigeria can implement to leapfrog the Philippines and India in this space. The 3 countries share similar BPO assets: youthful, agile population.
2 Harvesting the Diaspora Power.
We have witnessed a rise in African-Americans who desire to trace their roots and even relocate to Africa. If the President-elect can get the 10th National Assembly to pass the DIASPORA ACT, which our NGO–One Africa Initiatives–prepared 3 years ago, there are thousands of successful African-Americans who desire to relocate to Nigeria to set up viable businesses. They are interested in having a clear pathway to citizenship among others. One of OAI’s African–American members wanted to invest $50 million in setting up an Artisan University in Nigeria, (to train Tillers, Plumber, and Furniture makers to compete with Turkey and Italian furniture etc), we connected him with the Nigerian Ambassador in New York, but the right environment back home has not been created, so he is holding on to his $50 million investment. If the National Assembly passes the Diaspora ACT this year, successful African Americans will be glad to return to Nigeria permanently with briefcases filled with genuine USD. Nigeria can draw a 10-year plan to assimilate 500,000 African-Americans.
3 Overseas Nigerian Workers Bank (ONWB)
When the music changes, the dancing steps must change. Arguably, there are now more Nigerians overseas with quality jobs than in Nigeria. Put differently, our best hands are overseas and the best Nigerian-income-earners are overseas as well. Through reverse engineering, we can turn it into an opportunity like India and Philippines have done. Now that Nigerians are migrating in large numbers overseas, CBN should create a digital bank tagged ONWB, fully owned by the government. This will be the official bank for all Nigerians abroad or the ones planning to JAPA. The advantages off this policy are enormous. The equivalent of this in the Philippines is called Overseas Filipino Bank (OFBank)
4 Nigerian Bank for Expatriates & Business (NBEB)
Creating a 5% flat on yearly revenue as a Re-industrialisation development fund should be made a compulsory payment by all foreign companies operating in Nigeria going forward. All foreign companies operating in Nigeria should have a specialised bank through which they bring money into Nigeria and take their money out. This will guarantee accountability and improve IGR (Internally Generated Revenue) geometrically. Most of the foreign companies that are fraudulent and tax evaders will find it impossible going forward once they are in the NBEB tax net.
5 Gas is the new king.
We have $250 billion yearly in gas money on the table that became available as a result of the Russia–Ukraine war. Since Europe is divorcing herself from Russian energy, Nigeria should move quickly to fill in the gap and build new capacity to meet Europe’s future needs using part of the EU’s $300 billion dedicated fund for African infrastructure development which was set up in 2021 tagged Global Gateway infrastructure strategy (GGIS). Nigeria needs to diversify her risk and investment opportunities so that we will not fall into China’s trap in future the way Europe fell into Russia’s trap.
6 Entertainment Industry
The President-elect should build an industry around Nigerian Music, Movies and comedy. Nigeria is the current world’s champion in that space but the benefits are being harvested by American investors who have built an industry around it. We should do reverse engineering so that the bulk of the $ 30 billion revenue from the industry will be domiciled in Nigeria.
7 Drain the swamp in NNPC
No one sells water at a loss, Nigeria will be the only country in the world exporting oil and is broke. Norway, whose OPEC quota is lower than Nigeria, has $1.3 trillion (the world’s largest SWF) in her Sovereign Wealth Fund. But Nigeria is selling oil and NNPC seems technically insolvent. Something does not add up. If I were the President-elect, I would drain the swamp within 90 days of coronation. Beneath the NNPC Swamp lies billions of USD that should be brought to the table for our Common Good, not for the rapacious greed of selfish few.
If I were the President-elect, I will elect to do great things for Nigeria the way LKY did for Singapore, the way Sheikh Zayed Sultan Al Nahyan did for UAE, when he unified the 7 emirates into one DECENTRALISED nation-state ( if UAE could embrace Decentralisation for rapid development why not Nigeria?), for rapid modernisation, and the way Ben Gurion did for Israel and Mahathir Mohammad for Malaysia That which I promised the electorates ‘’Renewed Hope’’, I will deliver. I will decorate my office with the pictures of these 4 outstanding leaders and tell my subconscious mind every morning as I enter the office this: ’If Al Nahya, a man like myself, can turn UAE, a poor desert, into the most beautiful place on earth within 10 years, if LKY can bring out land from the ocean to turn a hopeless, jejune 3rd world country to a 1st world, if Ben Gurion could build the most innovative state and the world’s 5th strongest military power after 2000 years of statelessness for his Jews people, I Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the son of late Abibatu Mogaji- Iyaloja-General of Nigeria, have no excuse to fail Nigerians in particular and the Black race in general who have been asking for 63 years with pains in their hearts: ‘’when will Nigeria arise from her slumber and take her rightful place in the comity of modernised nations’’? I will elect to work and behave as The STONE rejected by most builders that ultimately become the catalyst of Nigeria’s transformation. I will not allow my spouse, my son, my daughter or my VP-elect to form a new CABAL to replace the outgoing shameless Cabal that went for Nigeria’s jugular. I will elect NOT to pursue for myself and family blessings which money can buy like most of my predecessors did, rather I will elect to do things that will make the Heavens, Africa and Nigerians happy, proud and fulfilled so that those blessings which money can’t buy that are immutable and eternal like peace, love, wisdom, beauty, vitality and purity will be mine.