On Saturday the 30th of November, I was privileged to be invited to review a pioneering work on girl-child education in Northern Nigeria by a female academic that I have known from childhood. I was surprised at this invitation because I am neither an academic, nor an expert on gender issues and the subject of education. Apart from my four- year stint as minister of Abuja, I have never even come across the challenges of girl-child education in a formally academic and experiential way. I thought it useful to share this book review on this column.
Let me first warn that I am likely to be a biased reviewer because the husband of the author, Sani Maikudi, has been and will remain one of the most important persons in my life, having been my mentor since 1972 when he began to look after me in Barewa College, Zaria. He has never ceased to look out for me. Once again, I thank my senior, mentor and professional guide Mallam Sani Maikudi, for being there for me always these forty-odd years and counting.
Without doubt, the disparity in access to education is both a national and global phenomenon. It is merely more serious in the North than other parts of the country. For many in my generation from the Northern part of the country, the issue of girl-child education (or lack of it) is something we have seen every day manifesting as street hawkers and child brides, and experienced in our families when our sisters do not go to school while our brothers do, and on reflection – we see half of our population that is being forced to live sub-optimally by not having access to education. And in spite of efforts by successive governments in Northern Nigeria, near equal access to education for both genders continues to elude us, among many other uniquely regional challenges like comparative under-development, human insecurity and escalating youth unemployment.
Many in Nigeria today may not remember the name of Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, but if there was any opposition to the military regimes of the eighties and nineties, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) under him definitely represented a voice of resistance to those governments’ excesses. At a time when many people kept silent in the face of human rights abuses, Okogie faced down the military government and told them some home truths. It didn’t matter if the victims were Muslims or Christians; it didn’t matter whether they were from the north or south; CAN fought for all Nigerians. Okogie had the moral authority to act, and did so with dignity, to the admiration of all of us.
Okogie’s bravery was not unusual for CAN leaders; if anything, in the turbulent history of this country, there is a proud tradition of leaders of CAN who spoke for and stood by the people of this country. They used their moral authority to defend the rights of all Nigerians even during the most brutal military dictatorships or corrupt and inept civilian administrations. The courage of the likes of Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, the Reverend Sunday Mbang and Cardinal John Onaiyekan, for instance, are shining examples of faith in action, with compassion for the oppressed and chastisement for the tyrants.
Shortly after Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as president, many recognized a modes opera do of deliberate division, destruction of trust existing between the various ethnic and religious groups that make up our country, and the wholesome attempts at conversion of traditional and social media to deplete societal cohesiveness. I wrote a piece then titled “The Death of Objectivity” to draw attention to this disturbing trend which appeared to be the governance strategy of the Jonathan administration. And this was long before the emergence of Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping and crude oil theft on scales never imagined at the time.
We reproduce the piece not only because its core message is even more relevant now than in June 2011, but it is by now clear that the destruction of social capital through the promotion of ethnic and religious divisions continues to be the pillars of the Jonathanian governance style. This requires all well-meaning Nigerians to be vigilant and vocal at condemning this, and retrieving our nation from needless slide into total state failure. Here goes. Enjoy! – Nasir El-Rufai
It was Aeschylus, the ancient Greek tragic dramatist who said ‘in war, truth is the first casualty’. To paraphrase the words in line with the tragic drama playing out in Nigeria today, one would say ‘in a flawed democracy, objectivity is the first casualty’. It is so bad that all voices of objectivity and moderation have abandoned the public space and their views suppressed. We therefore only hear from the extremes of the political, regional, religious and ethnic divides. This death of objectivity is unfortunate and may destroy what little we have left unless all of us rise up to reverse it.
I still recall how one of my sons behaved before going into kindergarten. He did not know how to share toys or food, threw tantrums whenever he failed to get his way or insulted his siblings or sulked when criticized. With years of parental effort at home, and intervention of handlers in nursery school, our son learnt the virtues of sharing, inclusion and getting along with those that he disagreed with.
I guess this is the experience of many parents. I have always wondered what manner of person would resort to abuse, bigotry and division when his or her conduct and utterances are interrogated, instead of simply responding in civilized language. APC chairman Bisi Akande’s characterization of Jonathan as a kindergarten president explained everything. And surrounded with equally parochial, morally-flexible handlers, one is bound to read the kind of falsehood that emanates from the likes of Reuben Abati from time to time.
It was Aeschylus, the ancient Greek dramatist who said, “In war, truth is the first casualty”. Thank God, despite the provocations of the Dokubos and the Clarks, Nigeria is not at war, but the presidency and presidential hangers-on have distorted democratic politics into some sort of warfare. President Goodluck Jonathan’s response to an interview I granted over the weekend is indicative that truth has become a casualty in his shoddy attempt to belittle the salient issues concerning Nigeria that I spoke about, and the weighty fact that the president is the promoter and apostle of ethnic and religious division of Nigeria, purely for political gains!
Our country is in the news these days often for the wrong reasons. Nigeria is a country devastated by poverty, insecurity, corruption and terrorism. The governance challenges are immense, while much of public policies now deliver poor outcomes. The budgeting process is a fictographic art, featuring much drama and a growing disconnect from the imperatives of development and the needs of the majority. True to that tradition, the 2013 budget is by August still a matter of unsettled contention between the executive and legislative branches of government. In spite of this, the nation’s savings account – the Excess Crude Account is being rapidly drawn down, probably unlawfully, such that it is likely to fall from about $11bn in February to zero by October 2013!
Yet this sorry impasse, governmental incompetence and impunity do not define Nigeria. Our diverse peoples are an energetic, often optimistic lot trying to build our lives despite the trammels imposed by governmental incompetence and paralysis. Ours is Africa’s largest country and second largest economy. It could easily be the continent’s largest economy and market if a congruence should emerge between politics, government action and national aspirations.
In the days and weeks leading up to the faux pax that became the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) election, the Katsina state governor, Ibrahim Shehu Shema was mentioned severally as a possible compromise candidate, largely on account of what some perceive as his ‘performance’ as governor. The same was said of late Umaru Yar’Adua even though most residents of the state vehemently disagreed then, and now. Shema is being touted as the likely running mate of President Jonathan if he is able to secure the nomination of his party to run for another term as president.
What is it about this man – Ibrahim Shema – that elicits such strongly ambivalent reactions? What is his style of governance and financial prudence, and why is it that so many think there is more to him that meets the eye in the way he runs Katsina state? How are the state’s finances and budget managed? If Shema is doing well in this area, why did the state house of assembly suspend the minority leader because he criticized the government’s poor budget implementation? We will analyze the 2013 budget of the state today to assist our readers answer some of these questions.
We’re proud to announce the publication of this new report, In the National Interest: A Critical Review of the Petroleum Industry Bill 2012 from Africa’s Centre for Progress and Prosperity. The report is authored by Omano Edigheji, Nasir El-Rufai, Ola Busari, and Jonathon Moses. You can download the full PDF version here, or read an excerpt and embedded version below.
This document presents a critical review of Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Bill (2012), in the form approved by the Federal Executive Council and tabled at the National Assembly, in the light of the overarching national interest to reform the oil and gas sector and promote its optimal development in a manner that benefits the people of Nigeria.
This brief forms part of an initiative of the Centre for Africa’s Progress and Prosperity (CAPP), an independent and non-partisan think-tank in Nigeria, to engage members of the National Assembly and other key stakeholders on the win-win pathway forward, including policy makers, industry organizations, non-governmental activists and ordinary Nigerians at large.
A few days ago, the minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned that economic activities may be shut down and that the Federal Government may be unable to pay its workforce by September if government failed to resolve the lingering problems with the 2013 Appropriation Act. The fact that the Federal Government is still talking about this year’s budget seven months into the year is indicative of weak fiscal practices and management at all levels of government. Sadly, the effects of government inertia would worsen matters for economically vulnerable Nigerians – a group that has grown significantly in size since President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office.
Considering how dependent the Nigerian economy is on government activities, it is inevitable that the budgetary inertia will further exacerbate poverty and unemployment and slow down what is essentially a jobless GDP growth in the face of increasing poverty. How did things get to this stage? Are there no mechanisms in place to check the attitude of government and its numerous agencies to fiscal responsibility?
Actually, there are several agencies of government charged with this task, except that perhaps taking a cue from the head of government, many of them are asleep, and if anything and have themselves, become part of the problem. It is therefore imperative that we examine some of these MDAs in a bid to highlight their purpose, effectiveness and productivity since their establishment. In continuance of our analysis of MDAs set up by the Federal Government, the first spotlight will be on the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC).
The mid-term review of the Goodluck Jonathan administration was celebrated with much pomp and pageantry. To an onlooker or a visitor to the country, the review of the administration’s performance was right on course and almost believable. The paradox is that the same people who set the examinations, sat for them and graded themselves. Sadly, contrary to the current administration’s celebration of success, the grand ‘economic’ figures that were reeled out mean nothing to the ordinary person. The President, proudly with the midterm review document in hand, has asked that we score him. That is what exactly will be covered by this concluding piece of mid-term assessment; not from the perspective of the government but from the angle of the perceived ‘beneficiaries’ of the various schemes and policies that have been enacted since 2011. (See Part 1 and Part 2 of this series)
Considering the macro-economic issues which have been celebrated by the current government, the fact is several notable aspects of the economy which the government claims to have improved, only impacted a few beneficiaries. The government claims credit in a GDP growth of about 7%. It also beats its chest on the renovation of airports and the resumption of a weekly train service between Lagos and Kano, having been off the lines for nearly twenty years. The government also touts its award of several contracts for infrastructure, especially roads. Finally, the Jonathan government is very smugly proud of its so-called power sector reform and the corollary privatization of several distribution and generation companies.
We began the assessment of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration by listing a number of the campaign promises he made in 2011 and added that the achievement of those promises was not easy to measure because in essence, they were just broad generalizations with no targets, deliverables or timelines. Perhaps, that was the point of making such vague promises; so that performance cannot be measured and failures would not be easily evident.
This week, we would rely on field visits and the feedback received from readers who responded via email, phone and SMS addresses provided last week. These responses along with other published facts and opinions would form the basis for assessing the Presidents’ performance. Some readers used the platform provided to engage in abuse, diversion and bigotry that the Jonathanians have perfected as response to any questions demanding their accountability. They forget that we are thick-skinned and do not respond to brainless insults. Many more provided on-the-ground status of projects and programs for which we are grateful.
While the perception amongst majority of respondents is that the Jonathan government is significantly underperforming; most of those who work with him or indirectly benefit from the schema of ethnic division, corruption and impunity his administration has perfected are engulfed in praise singing and forget to remind him of his many promises. Let us look to some of the specific commitments summarized last week.