Information is power… a commonly referenced phrase. The world, at large is said to be in the information age. Clearly, knowledge is king in these digital times. An individual’s wealth of information and knowledge can very well distinguish him or her. Where it remains difficult to access knowledge, the bane of societal transactions results… information asymmetry. Information, in today’s world, must be available, accessible, verifiable and reliable.
Every now and then, one hears this question thrown to the public fore – “How do I join a political party in Nigeria?” “What’s the process to follow?” Naturally, when people require such information nowadays, a Google search does the trick, yielding as many results as possible, meeting the information need. However, a quick Google search for the process of joining a political party in Nigeria yields little or no information. Link to link, page to page, there is hardly a well laid out process for joining. So, for the politically minded Nigerian youth, interested in getting involved at the minimal level of party membership, information asymmetry is the first bottleneck.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) website, there are currently 25 registered political parties in Nigeria. 7 of these have listed websites, but only 2 are functional at the moment – PDP and ACN. Websites have become a basic and primary information channel. The PDP website alone includes a page on ‘How to Join’, detailing eligibility for membership and steps to follow at Zone, State, Local Government and Ward levels. No other party website provides this information. In a country with up to 135 million connected GSM lines as at December 2012, such information ought to be widely spread and readily available online and perhaps on mobile devices. The inadequacy of reliable and clear information in this regard has resulted in people depending on ‘word of mouth’ as an alternative source of information on how to join a political party.
The generally accepted and verbally communicated process of joining a political party in Nigeria is as follows: Interested individuals are advised to visit the respective party headquarters at their Wards and seek the attention of the Ward Secretary (Each Local Government Area is subdivided into Wards for political purposes). The individual will fill a party registration form and provide supporting documents and payment as may be required by the party. Once registration is judged to be complete, a membership card will be processed and issued to the individual as confirmation. Then, the individual is referred to as a ‘card-carrying member’. Political parties typically hold weekly Ward meetings which members are expected to attend. A simple process, yet, requiring increased awareness and widespread documentation.
The least expectation is that each political party manages a functional website, publishing therein its national structure – a breakdown of Zones, States, Local Government Areas and Wards with contact details for party officials at each level. An individual who seeks to join a political party should be able to pick an internet enabled mobile phone, browse the website for the party of interest, navigate the national structure down to the Ward closest to him/her, copy details of the responsible party official, make an inquiry call and/or physical visit. Information should be at the public’s beck and call. So, while the PDP site provides initial information on ‘how to join’, it needs to incorporate information and contact details down to the Ward level. It currently lists PDP State Chairmen with few of their contact numbers but excludes details on LGA and Ward officials.
The Lagos State Government has been kind enough to publish via its website, the list of all Lagos State LGA’s, respective Wards and contact details of the Chairman and Vice Chairman – a ready-made template for each political party to adopt. The Oyo State Government website has a similar list of LGA’S within the State. Unfortunately, there is no breakdown of the Ward structure for each LGA, neither are contact details included.
Moreover, each political party should fully explore and execute the option of online registration for prospective party members. The Action Congress of Nigeria seems to be the trailblazer with this concept and may be testing it already via its Join ACN Today link.
In enhancing our growing democracy, information on political processes and requirements for partial or total involvement must become readily available to the average citizen. The ease and speed of accessing reliable information are key success factors to increasing and improving political involvement especially for Nigerian youth.
A quick peek into how our national refineries have fared through 2012.
Available data is limited to Jan – Aug 2012
Blanket bans were a hallmark of the military era in Nigeria in the ’80s and ’90s. Many will recall the infamous announcement of government takeover by General Abacha in 1993:
“The National and State Assemblies are dissolved…The State Executive Councils are dissolved… All Local Governments stand dissolved… The two political parties are hereby dissolved… All processions, political meetings and associations of any type in any part of the country are hereby banned.”
Such was the character of military style leadership – command and rule. Democracy on the other hand eschews such top-down insensitivities. It rather embraces the voice of the people, evaluating the impacts of both actions and inactions of leaders on the people.
Accordingly, one would hardly expect that an evolving mega city like Lagos, within a democratic dispensation, would employ the use of a blanket ban to fix the issue with motorcycle taxis, popularly referred to as ‘okada’. While the arguments in favour of the ban may be cogent, the strategy of execution generates much concern.
A critical analysis of the issue further elucidates this discourse. What is/was the primary issue? Okadas had become very conspicuous on Lagos roads. Like flies, these motorcycles swarmed both major and minor roads, meandering their way around traffic, constantly plying the route of least resistance, oblivious to every traffic sign and signal, scarcely seeing the need to apply the brakes even in precarious conditions. Consequently, they became highly accident prone, leaving many Lagosians with severe injuries, orthopaedic damage, and in extreme cases, death.
Numerous accounts have also been told and recorded of theft and armed robbery involving the use of okadas especially at ungodly hours. Obviously, based on the foregoing, okadas became a high risk to public safety, health and security in Lagos State.
Having understood the ‘What’, the discourse is furthered by root cause analysis to define the ‘Why’ – Why did okadas ever become a means of transport? Why is the use still sustained? The answer is simply expressed – ‘a need’.
Motivational speakers and business people have for ages spoken of identifying public needs as a trigger to business solutions. Similarly, there was a transportation need, a gap. The inability of existing public and private transportation to adequately cover the metropolis, irregular routes, bad roads and inconspicuous locations created a need. The inability of the State to rid its roads of traffic-induced downtime created a need for a faster means of transport. Okadas became the solution to a public need. Furthermore, okada, while meeting public transportation needs, provided employment to many young unskilled men, providing them a steady cash flow. A government-induced public need simply attracted a private-driven innovative response, laden with high risk. It was labelled ‘okada’.
Juxtaposing the ‘what’ against the ‘why’, one wonders, how does a government manage a ‘high-risk’ solution to an obvious need? Eliminate the solution with its attendant risk, thus re-creating the need? Or tactically work out a withdrawal and substitution parallel plan? So far, what has been done is an outright ban, elimination. Yet, the need persists and commuters are stranded at bus stops, previous okada riders become unemployed, creating another risk of idle hands, prone to evil and crime. Elimination ultimately creates another risk cycle of unemployment and crime.
The alternative is a multiple prong approach. First, effective communication and involvement of the public is paramount in determining a substitute solution with less risk. Perhaps consider an initial withdrawal of all okadas, then a substitution midway – with appropriate structure and controls in place. Motorcycle lanes should be marked out/demarcated on all major roads. A parallel follow-up to this may be a re-registration program for all potential motorcycle riders involving an intensive mental health check, safety indoctrination, road traffic education, several driving tests, motorcycle road worthiness, first aid training, and some business planning and management for value-add. Licenses should be issued only to successful candidates. Each okada driver should then be deployed to a pre-determined local government area with bi-weekly surveillance reports.
A similar case is seen in the construction of a highway within a city, leaving residences on both sides. While this portends a solution, it nonetheless creates a need. Pedestrians may need to move from one side of the road to the other. A high-risk solution rears its head – run across the road. Ban pedestrians from crossing the highway? No. Rather, build usable average height pedestrian bridges at regular crossing points. Employ change management to motivate pedestrians to use it.
In the bid to eliminate adjudged high-risk solutions, government must endeavour to avert re-creating public needs. A blanket ban hardly augurs well in the long run. Public need will always beckon innovative solutions, each with attendant risks. Parallel substitution is vital.
Eliminate solutions? No. Eliminate needs. Provide solutions. Improve solutions. Mitigate risk.
In today’s world, new businesses are born from the culmination of innovative ideas. Each business operates primarily to make profit on investment by providing products and/or services that meet an existing or expected market need. The fact that a business boasts revenue does not imply that it is profitable. Profit making businesses, small or large, create success and continuously improve by effective planning, execution, tracking and controls.
At the initial stage for many, financing is typically a major hurdle, especially within a market where easy credit facilities are still in the evolution process. As such, , which may include friends, colleagues, family, are usually approached by beginning entrepreneurs saying – “I have a business idea…will require start-up capital of N500k. Can you help?” In expected response, the potential investor whether family, friend or private equity firm will request to see a business proposal – “Show me your business plan“.
Planning, top-down or bottom-up, is one of many crucial factors to business success. Simply put, theneeds to be clear on a number of points – What is the product/service? What output capacity is planned (e.g. No of units/day/month/year)? How will this be achieved – What key activities are required to achieve output? What are the human resource needs for each activity? What materials and equipment do you need to get started? How much revenue do you expect per unit? What is the total owner’s cost per unit? Investors will expect you to prepare a cash flow sheet, determining the present value and expected profitability of your business. These metrics are only ascertained based on your business plan. So, plan properly.
Now the financing is in place, the business plan approved, and somehow, you have started running. How well is your business doing? While it is understandable that many times, businesses may not ‘stick to the plan’ due to complexity and uncertainty in business environments, it remains essential that progress on the plan must be tracked. it, and it. A local making business planned to produce 400units/day and sell at least 350, leaving a daily inventory of 50units/day for the first 6 months. After being funded, the business commenced accordingly. However, over the first month, actual production was 250units/day with daily sales of 200 units. The business owner, oblivious to this gradual development, continued operations, overjoyed with the decent revenues. Was the business making money? Yes, probably even covering cost, but how well was it performing? It was certainly not meeting the plan, and was certainly underperforming its profit, if it the planned cost to produce yet less output.
It is one thing to track and measure, it is another thing to track and measure the right things. Readily, a business would prefer to track and measure quantity of output and cost but focus must also be placed on quality, speed, dependability and reliability. Werepleased with the quality of cement blocks produced? Were they durable, reliable and dependable? Having displeased customers is easy potential for undermining expected sales. What is the rate at which the cement blocks were being produced? Why the drop versus the plan? Was it due to faulty equipment, incompetent employees or perhaps environmental factors like continuous rainfall? At the end of the day, the business must not forget to track its customer base. What sorts of customers are most frequent and loyal? Which ones have reduced patronage? Why? Do you need to target other types of customers? What works for one business may not work for the other. It is important to track the right metrics.
Performance tracking, controls, and progress measurement provide a health check for any business and should be done on a routine basis. Small or big, each business should produce a periodic form of reporting. It could be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, documenting specific performance indicators, plan versus actual etc. Effective tracking raises red flags, identifying operational issues very quickly, to enable the business respond promptly and appropriately.
To fail to plan, they say, is to plan to fail. What you do not track and measure, does not get done, so goes the old management adage. How can you improve business performance if you hardly know whether it’s doing well or not? To the business owner, the message is clear – Plan it, Track it…..or Lose it.
NB: This post was first featured in an SME Magazine (June 2012), and then YNaija (September 2012)
“In the next 10 years, Nigeria will be the largest producer of cocoa in the world”.
This was the prediction of African agriculture experts from Conservation Alliance in April 2012.
Cocoa has witnessed tremendous growth in production and demand over aeons. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, there has been a 3% annual increase in demand for the past 100 years. Being the key ingredient in the production of chocolate, this continuous growth in cocoa demand is in tandem with the budding demand for chocolate.
Annual global consumption is estimated at 2.8 million tons with the key consumers comprising Europe, Brazil and the US, while annual cocoa production is estimated to be in the range of 3 million tons, with 70% of this sourced from West African countries. The World Cocoa Foundation further predicts a 3% yearly growth in global demand for cocoa.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2010, ranked Nigeria as the 4th largest producer of cocoa in the world, with a 2010 output of 0.4 million tonnes. Apart from crude oil, cocoa is the highest foreign exchange earner in Nigeria. There are 14 states endowed with the appropriate climate to grow the crop, namely Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Taraba, employing over 5 million people nationwide. Southwest Nigeria accounts for 70% of the country’s cocoa production. Majority of the product (>90%) is exported annually.
National cocoa production and export value has grown over the years by an average of 40% year on year, and a cumulative of 280% from $215m in 2006 to $822m in 2010 according to the National Export Promotion Council (NEPC). The agricultural industry, specific to crop production, contributed 27% to 2010 GDP and grew to 34.5% as at 1Q 2012. Crude oil, the major driver of GDP, constituted 43% of GDP (2010). Judging from these statistics, it is clear that the Nigerian government, both at Federal and State levels, has no need of a crystal ball to foretell where national wealth should be created and harnessed. The agricultural sector holds such strong potential for job creation and mass employment.
With an available market and fair economic potential, cocoa expansion should be central to the economic master plan of these Nigerian states. Majority of the producing farmers in Nigeria are said to run small-scale operations, via family farms. Cocoa is a delicate crop especially in its tender years, requiring much care and shelter from the sun and wind. How do these farmers expand their production without well structured, low-cost financial support? Favourable environments must be created for lenders to invest, thus providing customer-friendly, long term financial products to support expansive cocoa production. These products should target all sectors of the production chain – upstream farmers, mid, downstream transporters, marketers, shippers and processers.
Downstream, opportunities remain to be exploited. Chocolate, a cocoa-centric product, is heavily imported into Nigeria from Europe and the US. This is ironic for the obvious reason – cocoa is grown in Nigeria, packaged and exported for processing into chocolate and other by-products, which in turn are imported to Nigeria. Yet, according to Fairtrade Foundation, the downstream sector currently earns 17% share of a chocolate bar value, while processing factories earn the majority 70% share. The residual share is accruable to the upstream producing farms. As such, cocoa producing states must begin to lure the private sector to invest in cocoa processing firms within their regions. The challenges of power supply and security notwithstanding, innovative means must be explored to incentivise such in-country investments. Manufacturing firms will always require skilled and unskilled labour, ultimately driving employment rates up. Corporate taxes on the other hand will boost the states’ fiscal position.
The old Western Region holds a historical example in this regard. Under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, cocoa was the mainstay of the regional economy with resultant visible infrastructural developments. The establishments of Cocoa House (the first skyscraper in tropical Africa), Western Nigeria Television (the first television station in Africa), Liberty Stadium, and the introduction of free primary education, were all based on cocoa proceeds.
Indeed, there is a cocoa alternative which Nigerian states, through their public and private sectors need to aggressively embrace and exploit. The next three years will tell.
Escalating insecurity and public fear…sporadic policy creation…the glaring and widening gulf between the governing and governed… the appalling hurl of money at pressing national issues…the suspected lack of foresight…the near-death of hope…the trial of the resolute…the cry of the Nigerian heart…longing for a solution…a call for true national leadership.
52 years after independence, how can it be that the nation still clamors for true leaders? With an eventful history – 8 military heads of state, 4 civilian presidents, it beats the intellect to imagine that people still seek the ones who will provide exemplary leadership, giving heed to the voice of the people, creating an enabling and virile atmosphere for economic growth, eschewing the entanglements of corruption, nepotism and self aggrandizement.
Over the past 12 years and via the ballot box or otherwise, majority of Nigeria’s national and state leaders have been direct products of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Within the same time-frame, the nation has battled all forms of struggles and challenges, from near-perennial ethnic clashes in the middle belt to the era of militancy in the Niger-Delta creeks. Corruption had its fill as many party stalwarts evidently lived on the flamboyant lane, reveling in inexplicable riches, perhaps their rewards for actively demonstrating loyalty to the party…the ballot box knows the story.
Juxtaposing the innate cry for true national leadership, against the 12 year history of the ruling party, it seems almost logical to infer that PDP has not generated that semblance of leadership which the people seek. Will it be erroneous to then postulate that the party is incapable of producing such leaders? Are there not a few good men within? One of the going debates that characterized the 2011 elections was the concept of voting for the candidate and not the party – the political paradox of imagining the exclusivity of both entities. History seems to disprove. The over-arching practices and characteristics that have so far been evident in this party are strong enough to choke a good enough man. As we approach 2015 gradually, if the cry of the Nigerian heart will be heard, the country will require a political shift – the end of a 16 year PDP reign.
The mere thought of this creates shivers in the national spine. The remoteness of its possibility further justifies. For an organization with such successful demonstrations of organic growth, its tentacles stretched far across the nation and its machinery oiled with pockets as deep as the national treasury, the end of its era seems a big wish. Nonetheless, the ruling party’s entry point was the ballot box. If there will be an exit, it will be via the same.
The biggest and most prominent political rival/opposition is the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and perhaps followed by the emerging Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). These parties were simply unable to defeat the PDP in the 2011 polls. They lacked the national spread, financial backbone and advantage of the incumbent. This has not changed or has it? The ACN has achieved a good deal of organic growth but is nowhere near the PDP. CPC is still in its budding phase. Will these rival parties again rely on organic growth to achieve a 3 year feat posing them as individual threats to the incumbent in 2015? Failure is almost a guaranteed result.
Even in the marketplace, where a company cannot successfully compete by organic growth, it begins to seek mergers and possible acquisitions as a strategy for inorganic growth. To guarantee an end to the PDP era in 2015, and possibly, the emergence of true leadership, the rivals must meet at the square of discussion, to establish a merger of sorts. A similar attempt was made prior to the 2011 presidential elections with the parties having to answer the age-old question – Compete or Cooperate? Continuously choosing to compete, pits both parties against each other, leaving them with little individual gain. Where they chose to cooperate, the consolidated gain surpasses the individual payoffs from competition.
While the rival parties are not void of corruption and their peculiarities, they provide certainly less tainted platforms for the rise and emergence of that representation of true leadership which the nation yearns for. With CPC’s strength of integrity, and ACN’s substantial national reach, a bigger umbrella is birthed for other smaller political units to join forces. In the process, egos will have to step aside for credibility, age for accountability and favoritism for the people’s will. Mergers are typically accompanied by a restructuring of top management positions. True leadership surpasses personalities.
True leadership is exemplary, honest, credible and just. True leadership is resolute and thorough, doggedly challenging the status quo, creating innovative paths to a better future. True leadership does not deny issues but focuses rather on providing solutions.True leadership surrounds itself with a pool of applicable knowledge. It eschews cluelessness. True leadership is prudent and accountable in both financial and non-financial dealings. True leadership is not fixated on the past nor devotedly consumed in the present. True leadership creates a future for its own.
Where are the true leaders?
Transaction costs impact businesses and economies all over the globe. It is defined as the cost of operating within a market, or “the costs, other than the money, that are incurred in trading goods or services”, including, but not limited to the cost of information. Information is indeed power in all respects. The right information, in the right hands, at the right time, can reduce the impacts of moral hazard and adverse selection in business and economic operations.
The Nigerian Government in 2011, publicized the consideration of a proposal to eliminate fuel subsidy from its annual budget. As expected, this proposal has been the subject of critical analysis and discourse, on both television and radio talk shows, social networking sites, and most recently, the National Assembly. One major issue, worsening this Nigerian quagmire of policy and decision making, is the availability, veracity and integrity of information.
It remains unclear to Nigerians what the estimated daily demand of PMS is. How much do we consume each day? What part of this demand is produced and supplied locally? What is the short-fall quantity that requires importation? What quantities were actually imported and paid for? Were quantities verified? It further remains unclear what the actual (sunk) cost of fuel subsidy for 2011 is – N1.3 trillion? N1.5 trillion? or what? The definition of fuel subsidy in itself seems to appreciate in vagueness by the day.
In this regard, and with the available information on current PMS retail price, current landing cost and ex-depot price (via PPPRA website), a scenario analysis has been run, with a permutation of numbers, in an attempt to demystify the concept of fuel subsidy and the method of evaluating its cost to government.
The analysis is seen here: The Arithmetic of Fuel Subsidy
November 12, 2011
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR
President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Dear Mr. President,
NIGERIA NEEDS YOUR LEADERSHIP
Thank you for your continued efforts towards improving Nigeria. Though I have my opinion on the impact of your efforts, but that is not the purpose of this letter.
Sir, as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, whose daily duty is to work with young Nigerians and ask them not to think of what Nigeria can do for them but what they can do to make Nigeria a better place, I have a problem. My problem is connected to the questions that I have had to struggle with over the years. One of the most popular is this: “You keep saying we should add value to Nigeria, but Nigerian rulers don’t care about us, so why should we care?”
Recently, a student stretched this question further: “Sir, if President Jonathan truly had no shoes, shouldn’t he at least understand the suffering of Nigeria’s 70%?” Our sessions are apolitical, so I always dwell on motivation and focus on personal development. “If we all become the best at what we do, as business(wo)men, social entrepreneurs, writers, footballers, musicians, politicians, etc, we’ll be able to connect the various islands of sanity we create in order to form a more perfect union,” I say to them.
Sir, the ongoing Fuel Subsidy removal debate has led to additional questions. “If the president can throw his wife a party in Australia and Senators earn millions of dollars a year, why does the president keep asking us, the people, to make sacrifices?” To this question, sir, I have had no answer. In fact, I also have questions. This was why I sent copies of “The Trouble With Nigeria” to you and your aides, with the hope that you’ll at least be reminded (again) of the similarity between our current dilemma and the documented tragedies of years past.
Nothing has changed, really. Yes, I know about the numbers and percentage points your aides quote to prove that things have become better under your watch, but this house is not in the best shape. Sir, I join my students and various participants at events where similar questions have been asked, to ask you a simple question: “If you really want us to make sacrifices, why have you not led by example, sir?” You are the number one citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and your “body language” carries more weight than what your senior aide posts on Facebook, or what the younger aides retweet.
Sir, on the front page of newspapers on Sunday, November 6, your words were boldly written: “Let’s Sacrifice For Our Country – Jonathan.” You were obviously hoping to ride on the message of the season, for which holidays were observed across Nigeria, but your actions are so loud that they overshadow the words that your aides speak for you. I wonder, for example, sir, why you have refused to make public your “Asset Declaration” details. If you have done so, please pardon my ignorance as I have not liked your page today, and I do not follow your tweeting spokesman.
In a nation where corruption is king, where public office is shortcut to “wealth”, sir, the least you can do is to show Nigerians that your days in Abuja have not changed you from the humble boy without shoes to a man with shoe factories abroad – that are “subsidised” by state funds. But then, you have only been in office (again) for 5 months, so maybe you’ll soon surprise us. All I can feed on is hope. Actually, that isn’t 100% accurate; I have since moved from hope to patience, which used to be known by another word, “longsuffering”.
Sir, some of your enemies said that you have allowed some Heads of State use you, I mean Nigeria’s presidential jets in the last few weeks. First, they said you dropped the Mauritian president off at home before heading back home, on your way back from Australia. It can’t be true, so I’ll not allow the accusation to make me sad. Another president, who was stuck in the Lagos rain for almost an hour, and stopped over in Lagos for private business, was also a beneficiary of our presidential jet’s services. Sir, we cannot afford to live like kings when indeed our purse shows a different reality. But then, this may be the job of your political enemies, so let’s ignore them.
If you want Nigerians to make sacrifices, start from Aso Rock! A radical cut in the cost of government will be the first sign to Nigerians that you really mean what you say. When you reduce Abuja’s pay (and allowances), and achieve considerable savings in the volume of waste known with government’s many moving parts, you will see that it’ll be easy to ask the legislature to do the same. Then, and only then, will it be justified to ask those who already skip meals to skip meals. Some of your aides will say, “what is this not-so-young man saying, it’s a tough job to do,” and my response will be simple: there will be no transformation without sacrifice, and there will be no sacrifice from those already at the mercy of the price of kerosene and petrol until the First Citizen leads by example.
And sir, while still on the subject of leadership, there is another problem: criminals believe you have no bite. This is not a new problem, since this is the same country where the Attorney General was murdered in cold blood and the mystery is still unresolved. As Nigerians unfortunately start getting used to the headlines that use words like “bomb blast”, “67 dead”, “violence”, etc, without the sadness that comes with knowing that each casualty is a human being like ourselves, it is quite scary that we are yet to see anyone brought to book. If your security appointees can’t deliver, why reward incompetence with VVIP tags? God forbid that it is true, sir, that you have outsourced your own personal security for the fear of being a target of attacks.
Nigeria is back at the age-old crossroads again (if we ever left temporarily), and you have a chance to step up to the challenge, sir. Lead by example, and you will spend less on SAs or SSAs whose job descriptions have suddenly reduced to “defend the president”. Lead by example, sir, and your words will carry more weight, even if not spoken with the aid of the media. Lead by example, sir, by cutting down the cost of government before asking Nigerians to sacrifice for a future they are not certain will offer their children the right to a social contract that guarantees the security of life (let’s even leave property for now). Lead by example, sir, and those who are waiting for your failure will edit their already typed-out columns. Lead by example, dear President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, and let the good luck spread to all.
Citizen ‘Gbenga Sesan
Over the past week, there has been a resounding clamor for some form of a reactive and compelling protest in the similitude of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Spontaneous suggestions like ‘Occupy Nigeria’, ‘Occupy National Assembly’ and ‘Occupy Abuja’ have been posited on Nigerian social media platforms. To be or not to be?
‘Occupy Wall Street’ has been described as a series of ongoing protest demonstrations originating in New York City. These protests kicked off on Sept 17, 2011 and by Oct 9, had spread to about 70 cities all over the world. The protesters, self-named as ‘the 99 percent’ have taken to the streets to publicly declare a fight against all forms of economic inequality, corporate greed and the absence of evident justice post the global financial crisis. Initially triggered in July 2011 by Adbusters, a Canadian based group, the concept was to actualize a peaceful occupation of Wall Street in protest. It is seen here there was a trigger, the sense of a tipping point – “….there was a feeling that, ‘wow things are going to change’….we are going to take these financial fraudsters and bring them to justice…among the young people, there was a very positive feeling…Now, we’re despondent again”, said Kalle Lasn Founder and Editor of Adbusters.
Anyone familiar with the current Nigerian political and economic landscape certainly will perceive obvious similarity in that last statement. For many, at some point, there was the infinitesimal hope for justice to be meted out and corruption tackled squarely, a silent prayer for fiscal prudence and cuts in government overheads, a hope for transparency and accountability, a longing desire to see the implementation of campaign promises. For Nigerians, it becomes almost apt to conclude this with the same phrase “among the young people, there was a very positive feeling…now, we’re despondent again”. Does the similarity of triggers then justify or guarantee a prediction of similar responses?
The Nigerian psyche so far reflects certain features including brevity of memory, especially in the face of transient gratification. Does it not appear as though the average Nigerian, triggered by similar inequalities and injustice, complains and protests for ALL till he gets reprieve for self? Once reprieve is obtained, via that juicy contract or influential office position in Abuja, Port Harcourt or Lagos, it becomes as though the neo-activist within activates an auto system shut down, forgetting ongoing societal and economic issues. In other matters in this regard, what trend do we observe with the cases of the ongoing trial of Hon. Bankole, the alleged injustice to Justice Salami, the ABSU gang rape video? The Nigerian psyche agitates momentarily, then moves on swiftly, relegating past issues to oblivion.
Further examining the Nigerian psyche in the light of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs gives the vivid impression that many or perhaps most Nigerians are at the lower layers of the pyramid, with their foci transfixed on meeting the basic needs of life, what Maslow described as deficiency needs – food, water, power supply, security in all forms, health, friendship and family. Maslow’s pyramid suggests appropriately that unless these basic needs are met, people rarely focus on ‘Being’ needs – self actualisation, self esteem, achievements and problem solving. Drawing inferences, people whose daily attention is totally drawn into meeting basic/deficiency needs will have little or no motivation to ascend to levels of societal or economic problem solving. So, it is very likely that the average Nigerian will devote his energies to provide a roof for his family, ensure a steady supply of water, alternative or backup power supply system, and some form of home and communal security. A nation filled with many of such does not appear to present a compelling cause for ‘Occupy Wall Street’ type protests. Why? People are overwhelmed with struggles to meet basic needs, why should they endanger themselves? They hustle, longing for future prospects, and that breakthrough moment, which will make life much better for them, positioning them above the struggle line. Such individuals are more likely to be engrossed in an ‘occupation’ than the thought of ‘Occupy Abuja’.
These factors that characterize the Nigerian psyche (brevity of memory and the encumbrance of basic needs) portend to be potential terminators to the possibility of an ‘Occupy’ protest happening here.
The antithesis to this reasoning will be to prove and demonstrate clearly that a Nigerian tipping point has been reached. Each time a national event or change seems to suggest such, the preoccupation with basic needs and the brevity of memory surmount the challenge, fueling the resilient nature of Nigerians. Is there currently a cause, strong enough, as the transference of presidential powers to Goodluck Jonathan in March 2010, to guarantee another ‘Enough is Enough’ march?