What Next After The U.S Road Show

Obama and PMB

Obama and PMB

I AM worried by the widespread optimism in the land following the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States of America. The mood belies the reality. It is being projected as if the President returned last Thursday from the US with a bag of solutions to all of Nigeria’s problems.

Corruption shall end, the huge social and physical infrastructure deficits shall even up and insecurity shall give way to peace and prosperity.

The visit was branded unique. They said it was the first time a Nigerian President who is less than two months old in office and has not even formed a government would be invited by an American President. It is a milestone and if things work out as programmed, there shall be even a bigger milestone.

PMB will go down the books as the first Nigerian president or any president for that matter to have walked into America and lifted home a sack-load of solutions to all domestic problems.

In fact, President Buhari is already setting hair-breaking records in his second coming. In the ongoing democracy, no president has had the courage to postpone the constitution of a government by more than 100 days after he had been sworn-in on May 29. The President has just announced his decision to wait till September to appoint a cabinet. This is precisely 36 days from today, given that the appointments will be made on the first day of September.

It is not as if PMB is converting Nigeria to a sole proprietorship. He is not a sole administrator. He has repeatedly made case for time and patience to serve Nigerians well. He has not stood still; he is moving gradually. Whatever disadvantages are being mitigated by the inherent benefits of the slow and steady approach. Even the Bible acknowledges in Ecclessiatics 9:11 that the race is not always for the swift-footed. The argument is that past presidents who ran like an endangered hare without deep thinking made very costly mistakes that brought Nigeria to where it is today. It is therefore in the interest of everybody to allow PMB to move slowly and steadily to win the race.

Back to the bag of solutions from America. Reports late last week that one law in the US statutes book, called the Leahy Act still stands between Buhari and the dream of sophisticated weapons delivery from the US to fight Boko Haram are not encouraging. The law forbids the US from selling weapons to countries with records of human rights abuse.

Global rights watch, Amnesty International said in its report in June that the Nigerian military in the course of prosecuting the war against the Boko Haram insurgents committed grave crimes, chief of which is the extra-judicial execution of 1200 people. Washington is holding on to this in spite of repeated denial by Abuja to frustrate the sales of weapons to Nigeria.

The same law stood between former President Goodluck Jonathan and arms delivery from the US. President Obama only promised Buhari to help fight Boko Haram amid the stalemate. He had also said the same thing to Jonathan. And so, Buhari re-entered Abuja without a deal more or less and to worrying news that Boko Haram had reclaimed five local government areas in Yobe and Borno States.

This is, however, unofficial. The official position is that the four-day tour was most successful and precisely what would push Buhari into an effective take off at home.

It is said, for instance, that the current liquidity squeeze would ease with an anticipated inflow of a staggering $150billion, being stolen Nigerian money stashed in bank vaults in the US and Europe and which President Obama has promised Buhari to recover for Nigeria.

Altogether, it was a good outing, the failed arms deal notwithstanding. Apart from Obama, Buhari also ran through his plans with Nigerians in the US. They promised to assist him in one way or the other to return Nigeria to winning paths, so that they themselves can come back home.

But there is still work to be done and it is mainly in the area of domestication of the American solutions. They look raw and need to be properly processed and adapted for home use. Take the point on corruption for instance. The American system which puts wealth generation in private hands and allows only the hard worker to harvest big encourages competition and not corruption.

“Therefore, America’s prescription on how to battle corruption cannot work as prescribed in Nigeria, where government, specifically the federal government or even the President, is about the sole custodian of wealth and distributes same among the people, using parameters such as, number of votes in the 2015 presidential elections, population, geographical space, backwardness, volatility, proximity and access to power, religion, gender and even age.”

In Nigeria, if a group or a man is able to skew these variables to advantage, wealth is automatically created without a corresponding volume of industry. Power is like the Kingdom of God, which people seek first at all costs and then wait, not for too long though, for all other things, including riches to be added unto them.

The starting point therefore, is not posturing about a stern determination to kill corruption because a tree is not truncated by merely cutting off the branches. What is needed is the courage to get to the tap root and do a good job.

The current approach of only hoping to safe-guard the treasury against looters appears too sanctimonious for serious business. Another man may come tomorrow and business may return. A system that ties consumption with production shall do so much to moderate the appetite of people to operate within their means.

If a state governor, for instance, understands that there is no money to share in Abuja, he will think twice before committing huge resources to sponsoring pilgrims to Mecca and Jerusalem. The executive arm at all levels spends in anticipation of a wind fall outside itself. This is the crux of the matter. But Buhari is not looking seriously at this, as he sticks to promises to manage very well other people’s money for the benefit of everybody. That is not a big thing to bring on board because just anybody can claim to be a better manager of the consolidated resources. It is why the centre is attractive and contest for its control usually cut-throat.

The contest for the centre stage is further heightened by a feeling among everybody that this model of federation of sharing money at the centre is unsustainable and shall fail some day. What is today manifesting as large scale corruption in Nigeria is actually the mad rush by all sides to take as much as possible from the national purse before the country dissolves to something more difficult to engage in that sense.

I had expected President Obama to tell Buhari to do something about this anomaly; and that in the American system, which we claim to practise, governors of the 50 states do not send their accountants-general to Washington DC every month end to bring home allocations with which they run their states. Obama did not note this vital point to Buhari. Instead, he presented Buhari as the embodiment of integrity and everything needed to rid Nigeria of corruption. That is like seeking to enthrone peace and progress in the absence of justice or even order.

I can’t see how it will happen. Where we are now requires more than integrity and associated virtues to move forward. It requires the courage to bring down the house and rebuild.



14 Comments
  • maccido

    @ Abraham Ogbodo, I salute you for the very good piece on the way out, however you stick too much of everything for the president to solve as if all the national predicaments are only the sole responsibility of the man at the top to correct. The Nigerian system of government functions based on three tiers: executive, legislature and the judiciary with each having a defined constitutional responsibility. The presidency cannot usurp the powers of either of the two; for instant control the budget design or implementation at the state governments’ level, neither can he institute laws or acts that can change the state allocation formulation. Of course he can influence or submit proposals to the assemblies, I would have not commented if included in the write-up a recommendation for the national assembly to relook at this system of sharing the national wealth. But I agree totally that the root of our problems need to be the center for a permanent solution. Good Job.

    • Olakante

      We always try to throw spanner into any good and sensible contribution made by others. After your observations what is the solution you proffered? The whole buck ends with the president in Nigerian system. If Buhari has a true and genuine interest of Nigerians at heart he should push for the implementation of the resolves of the National conference which unfortunately he said he is not interested in because all he is interested in is the revenue from oil. Thank you Mr Ogbodo for this very good and timely piece. After we play the ostrich the reality will stare us on the face.

      • maccido

        @Olanke, if you read mine it was centered on the roles of the government as entrenched in our constitution which is collective. I beg to disagree with the idea that the.. ‘whole buck ends with the president’.. then why the separation of power? Regarding the national conference report or recommendation I hope you did not forget the controversies that followed in the discourse then, however many believed it was illegal since there was national assembly elected by the people who are mandated by the constitution to amend and or make the laws. In any case depending on which side the argument is that recommendation has to go back to the assembly for adaptation or order wise: I will bet my shoes if the assembly then or now will approve it, as the lot of the members were nominated. So it appears more of waste of resources?

        As for my recommendation let the assembly produce the laws, the executive to implement while the judiciary protect. Communities, civil societies or governance etc can initiates if they feel there was need including your good self.

      • maccido

        @Olanke, if you read mine it was centered on the roles of the government as entrenched in our constitution which is collective. I beg to disagree with the idea that the.. ‘whole buck ends with the president’.. then why the separation of power? Regarding the national conference report or recommendation I hope you did not forget the controversies that followed in the discourse then, however many believed it was illegal since there was national assembly elected by the people who are mandated by the constitution to amend and or make the laws. In any case depending on which side the argument is that recommendation has to go back to the assembly for adaptation or order wise: I will bet my shoes if the assembly then or now will approve it, as the lot of the members were nominated. So it appears more of waste of resources?

        As for my recommendation let the assembly produce the laws, the executive to implement while the judiciary protect. Communities, civil societies or governance etc can initiates if they feel there was need including your good self

    • Martino

      Get a copy o the Nation Conference Report; the sharing formula is explained there. The writer does not need to profer solutions that already exist.

  • okwuchukwu

    Mr Ogbodo,
    This is a wonderful piece. The civil war alliance is the power at the center now. It led Nigeria nowhere in the last 45 years and it will lead us nowhere in the years ahead.

  • Edim Asekong

    Timely piece. Nothing to add nor subtract. Those who have ears, let them hear, ” all that is needed is the courage ( nothing else) to pull down this house & rebuild same”. All that we see is like the blind leading those with sight.

  • AA

    Nice one, Abraham. But pls stop being so diplomatic. The truth is that the “widespread optimism” around PMB’s emergence is excessively problematical. Apart from frustration with the PDP and desperation for change, the only tenable reason why Nigerians should be forgiven for this optimism is IGNORANCE of the actual scope of our problems and of Buhari. It is unfortunate but we are most probably in for our greatest disappointment as a nation.

  • Isaac Oghogho

    Thanks Abraham. There is a need to change the current structure of the “FRN” through the implementation of the National Conference by PMB. Then and only then can the country have true fiscal federalism. A situation where over 90% of revenues go the central government makes state Governors “beggars” and lazy. Unfortunately, this trend will most certainly continue because of the Country’s current over dependence on crude oil; a product majorly found in the minority region of Nigeria. Had this commodity been found in the North or South West, true fiscal federalism would have been entrenched in the country.

    Under a true fiscal federalism, much more premium are placed on the qualities of a Governor as they must balance their budget unlike the practice in Nigeria where “noise makers” called Governors run to Abuja every month to SHARE money. Let us share money from the ECA, the SWF is unconstitutional and hence let’s have the money to SHARE; the FGN must SHARE money from the NLNG payments to bailout reckless State Governors. All we hear is that there is not enough money to SHARE because of the fall in crude oil price. May God allow the crude oil price to fall to $5/barrel. Then the Governors will look inwards and utilize their abundant God given natural resources to better their States. The Governors will use the PPP models to develop their States. The Governors will stop acquiring Jets at tax payers’ expense.

    May God allow crude oil price to crash to $5/barrel, then and only then will true fiscal federalism be allowed to take place in Nigeria. Then and only then will Nigerians stop importation of toothpicks, handkerchiefs, toilet soaps, tissue papers, etc into Nigeria. Then and only then will the fight, lies, killings, etc for control of the center stop

    • AA

      Nice one, Isaac. It is good to read such informed comments – at least some people understand the real issues. Unfortunately, the majority are so misled by the hypocritical campaign of ‘change’. They don’t even have any idea of the kind of change the country requires. Make we dey look.

      • imagine_2012

        I agree too. Its so easy to hoodwink the people

    • Martino

      Thanks man. Had oil being found in the North, there would have been no Nigeria. Or if there was, the South would have been “beggars”.

  • imagine_2012

    Thanks a lot

  • emmanuel kalu

    This is why i have being against all the probing and announcing of looted money. it doesn’t solve the problem, it just provide some kind of relief. yes we need to recover all the looted money, we need to probe. however we should probe to find the root cause or avenues of the looting. we should probe to find the people that looted, what position they were and how they did it. however all that probe should lead to changing the system. we really need to change our federal system. each states needs to generate its own revenue, and resources, of which some of the taxes and revenue is paid back to the federal govt, who in turn uses that money to support the states. however we must first make states understand that all states are not equal. lagos is not the same as kware. idaho is not the same as NY.

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