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HOW THEY GOVERN US


See how they govern Nigeria: In May, the Chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri uttered probably the most embarrassing statement by a state security official. Following Chief James Ibori’s arrest in Dubai on May 12, Mrs. Waziri claimed that the EFCC was working with Interpol and Metropolitan Police, UK to get the former Delta State Governor extradited. Then she said: "My initial reaction when I heard of Ibori’s arrest was that of excitement, and surprise too. Surprise because somebody said he had gone to Ghana. Some people also said he is still somewhere in Delta, some say in his Village in Warri.

"My mind never went to Dubai. But the Met police have a relationship with Dubai police. They told me that if he is in Dubai they will get him that it will be easier to track him down. If he had gone to places like China or Japan, and then it would have been difficult. I was very excited."

Here is the head of a strategic national security agency confessing that she depends on hearsay to do her job. Nothing can be more surprising: "somebody said…some people also said…some say." In a country where people are always saying things, it is tragic that what the EFCC does is to rely on rumours and speculations in discharging its responsibilities. No wonder the authorities could not arrest Chief Ibori when he was still in Nigeria. Does the country lack the means to provide security intelligence for law enforcement? So it seems.

In Ibori’s case, he was soon turned into a pin in the haystack, with security agents running helter skelter, for more than a week in the Delta region until the man showed up in Dubai. And Mrs. Farida Waziri said: "if he had gone to places like China or Japan…it would have been difficult." What a way to run a law enforcement agency! Here is Mrs. Waziri telling anyone who intends to flee from the Nigerian system to head towards Japan and China! Was that meant to be a deliberate tip off?

In the last week of June, the Governor of the Central Bank disclosed that three foreign banks were already queuing up to buy the five rescued banks being currently superintended by CBN appointees. This was contrary to the report by Standard and Poor’s, an international rating agency which Nigerian banks like to quote when it is convenient to do so, that the Nigerian banking system is still highly risky. The implication of this latter report is that foreign investors who Lamido Sanusi, the CBN Governor is expecting by mid-July may not be so keen after all about "buying" Nigerian banks particularly as it is public knowledge that they are structurally devalued and the cost of doing business in the country is unnecessarily high.

But a CBN Deputy Governor and the Minister of Finance had a ready answer for this. They reportedly said there are many local interests seeking to take over the banks, so even if foreign investors back out, it wouldn’t matter. "It is about quality of technical competence, capital and credibility." If foreign investors back out, one of them argued, it won’t be because the banks are unhealthy but due to other criteria. Well, well… well. Are we being told that what is not adjudged good enough by the international community is good for Nigerian investors? Is this part of an original objective: to rescue the banks and hand them over to other Nigerians?

Should there be a different set of standards for Nigerian investors other than global best practices? And who are the local interests trying to take over the banks? The moment Sanusi’s CBN introduced its brand of reforms, some people said the ultimate objective was to hand over the banks to some privileged Nigerians, somebody also said those people will come from a particular part of the country…and now some people say we are about to witness a confirmation of what they had said. That is how they are governing Nigeria!

It is this same display of contradictions that we find in the management of football. The Federal Government decided to withdraw all national football teams including the Super Eagles from all international tournaments for the next two years; the reason was the Super Eagles disgraceful outing at the World Cup in South Africa. This would have meant that the Female U-20 team that is now on its way to Germany for the FIFA U-20 tournament would not have been able to do so, all the club sides would have dropped out of regional football competitions, the country itself from the Olympics and the Nations’ Cup with the additional risk of being banned for a long time by FIFA. It was obvious that the Federal Government had taken a costly decision without thinking its way through the implications. But it was so determined to put the Nigerian House of Football "in order".

Sports Minister Ibrahim Bio, the same fellow who turned himself into a logistics officer running up and down in South Africa and London to book hotel accommodation and flights for the Super Eagles (he had to take on the task personally!) boasted that Nigeria would stand by its decision, because the country’s sovereignty is more important. His words: "Nigeria will do everything possible to take the interest and sovereignty of Nigeria first and foremost and if that is in conformity with FIFA rules, so be it, but if it is not in conformity with FIFA rules I think the sovereignty of Nigeria and interest of the people are most paramount… My friend, you cannot have cancer and continue to live with it because you don’t want to spill blood, we are ready to spill blood to remove the cancer so be it." Bio! Bio! Can we now have your comments justifying the Federal Government’s volte-face in the face of FIFA’s threat and ultimatum? What happened to Nigeria’s sovereignty? Are you still going to spill blood or the cancer is better left to fester?

President Jonathan has written that he had to respond to pressures mounted by visitors to his Facebook page. Oh God, are we now running a Facebook government in this country? This may be a good advertisement for the rapidly expanding new media, and participatory democracy, but it also has its downside. Now that President Jonathan listens more to Facebook postings, his Facebook page may crash shortly with every Nigerian going there to voice their concerns. But did he need Facebook to see through the folly of official inconsistencies? Curiously the same people who praised the President for imposing a football ban, are also now saying the reversal of that decision is very wise. Ni-geri-ans!

State Governors and other officials even travelled to London to hold an investors’ summit on fifty years of Nigerian independence, the very first event marking the celebration of Nigeria at 50. What is wrong with Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt as venue? Was the choice of London a way of paying homage to the former colonial masters? Other countries would rather celebrate their achievements at home. By going to London our people demonstrated that Nigeria is not good enough. Now the British must be convinced that 50 years later, we still can’t stand on our own. That says it all. And to celebrate the same anniversary at home (most Nigerians don’t think a grand celebration is necessary), the Federal Government initially asked for N10 billion, or N16.4 billion, the House of Representatives slashed that down to N6. 4 billion, and now the President is asking for N9.4 billion, after listening to criticisms… On Facebook? We are obviously dealing with a tough lot. Welcome to Jonathan’s Facebook page!

The National Honours list is out; it is a collection of controversial choices with the exception of a few. I think for example that Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala deserves recognition. Professor Tam David-West also, but he ruined his case by saying a CON is too small for him. He obviously wants a GCFR like President Jonathan. Why? Don’t you know he taught the same teachers who awarded Jonathan his Ph.D, (!) and by the time he served as Federal Minister, where was Goodluck Jonathan? That is what you get when the national honours list is turned into a joke with such names as Patricia Etteh and other serving public officials. But what did we expect? Namadi Sambo got a GCON the day he became Vice President (is he still in this country?), and in "How Jonathan got his GCFR" (June 11), I had lamented the devaluation of national honours. These days, when good people are honoured nobody takes them seriously because of the kind of company in which they are placed. Those who govern Nigeria must learn to think before they act.

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