Wednesday, 29 December 2010

2011: The emergence of two party politics?

There is much talk going at the moment amongst the political class of coalitions, alliances and mergers. The general consensus seems to be that the election machine of the PDP will simply be unstoppable come 2011 and the only way that non-PDP politicians can have a say is by forming a coalition (or coalitions). The story bubbled earlier in the year as legislators debated whether to include a two-party amendment into the Electoral Reform Bill, on that occasion the idea was shot down, albeit after some political manoeuvring, but nonetheless it raised the profile of the grand coalition agenda. The idea was first floated by the ‘love-him-or-hate-him’ Godfather of Nigerian politics, General Babangida, in the ‘Third Regime’ and eventually lead to what was considered the freest and fairest elections ever held in Nigeria which was contested between the National Republican Convention and the Social Democratic Party ( Who won the election with candidate MKO Abiola).

As the elections have drawn nearer, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) are reported to be in talks over an alliance (but probably not a merger) with the All Nigerian People Party (ANPP) and their splinter party the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). In addition to all the politicians who are criss-crossing the carpet from one party to the other, Presidential aspirant Pat Utomi of the Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP), the day after announcing his candidacy indicated on his Facebook page that he would be going round Nigeria to build a coalition with ALL progressives’. The question is now why the sudden clamour for unity?


There are two scenarios here that though inter-related are best looked at separately. The first of which was that raised in May in the legislature, where The National Assembly sort to pass an amendment limiting the parties allowed to run to two. The argument being that a two-party system is a stable political system that has succeeded in polities all over the world (and indeed in Nigeria albeit briefly) and will have a number of beneficial consequences include reduced cost of elections, greater accountability and higher participation. As such it was advisable to have it in law. This move although apparently supported by many was opposed by PDP legislators, but is also opposed by a number of academics who contend that besides the problems of rigidity and restricted choice this may imply, the emergence of two-party politics in the US or Japan or for that matter anywhere in the world has never been induced by the passing of law or amendment of constitutions. These changes have always happened by evolution, with two parties emerging as dominant over time but with the existence of other parties not expressly outlawed. This is of course the second scenario for Nigeria, that parties will splinter and merge, grow and wither and two parties will emerge; one of which in all likelihood has already emerged, The PDP.


There is a degree of inevitability about as French sociologist Maurice Duverger outlined in what became known as his principle. Duverger’s law asserts that a plurality election system, like the one that exists in Nigeria, tends to encourage a two party system, as opposed to a system of proportional representation which tends to favour a multiparty system. The argument being that in a country like Nigeria, where each legislative seat (and the Presidency) is divided by a simple majority of votes casted by constituents, the party with the most seats is the majority (or gains the Presidency) and the second party is in minority (or is in opposition). In each individual seat there is no role for the party that comes third, and any party that consistently comes third across the seats will have no role at all on a national level. People will stop voting for them as they will begin to see it as a wasted vote and/or the party itself will seek to ally itself with one of the more successful parties. This model has been applied to analysis of the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom and is widely accepted, however it is only a theory and it is the practice of politics that concerns Nigerians.


This would be a good time for the opposition parties to unite. The PDP is suffering a dip in support; people are dissatisfied after 12 years of the party in Government. The pressure for free and fair elections is overwhelming, this combined with the cheap publicity via modern technology means that the elections will be more open than in previous idea. The concept of a non-partisan coalition chimes with the electorate and the theme of change that the parties are planning to run on and cooperation might give them the financial muscle to challenge the PDP’s hegemony. In practice, amalgamation looks unlikely. Though the parties are currently in talks with the view to some sort of understanding, there are a number of issues in the way so much so that Alhaji Bafarawa (formerly of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP), now of the ACN) has come out to dispel talk of an alliance as just that, talk.


“As a democrat and I believe ACN is a democratic party. Whoever that is taking our ticket must be our member. I am assuring you there is no way ACN will adopt a presidential candidature without recourse to democracy. There is no way merger will work"


 The CPC is a splinter of the ANPP and such is unlikely to enter any coalition with them, leaving the ACN to choose a suitor. The major problem hindering any agreement is that there is no real acknowledgement of who is the ‘second’ party and who is the ‘third’, in other words who will be senior and who will be junior partner. The CPC is a new party that although has considerable support particularly in the North, has no tangible political assets to bring to the table. The ANPP despite its state Governors and significant stake in the legislator has taken some political blows as a result of the defections that have plagued the party this year. The ACN would seem to be perched in the driving seat with the popular acclaim for Governor Fashola of Lagos and its recent court successes in the South-West, however they don’t appear to be able to put forward a heavy hitting presidential candidate and such seem to be very much playing second fiddle to the other parties. The latest gossip is that the coalition will be between the CPC and the ACN, with former head of state, General Buhari, being lined up as the presidential candidate with a running mate from the ACN, possibly former governer of Lagos State, Mr Tinubu.


If a deal is struck, there will be a number of losers including ACN aspirant, Mallam Ribadu, who seems to have been overlooked as well as Pat Utomi’s SDMP and a whole host of smaller parties who will have little or nothing to bring to the table. However, in this writer’s opinion a deal is not likely to be struck, Nigerian politicians are not well known for their cooperation or their selflessness. For progress to be made one or more parties will have to give up their claim to the presidency and accept a diminished role. The parties will have to choose a platform on which to run and that is proving a sticking point at the moment as all sides would want to preserve their political capital by running on their own party ticket. Then there is the question of what will happen in the likely situation that the PDP retains power, the PDP currently has 26 of the 36 gubernatorial seats while the other parties combined have only 10. What are the realistic prospects of any coalition continuing beyond the elections and forming a credible opposition? One can only speculate and on some level that is the problem in Nigeria, there is no power in opposition and so every election is winner takes all. Duverger’s theory doesn’t hold up for Nigeria because there is no second place, no shadow cabinet, in effect no opposition. Opposition that should be shadowing government activity, scrutinizing government agenda and formulating alternative policies simply doesn’t exist. It should act as check on the party in power and should fight to get the upper hand on its opponent by reflecting the will of the people. So this brings us back to the first scenario and perhaps instead of the National Assembly trying to legislate on a two party system, they should legislate on reform to the Assembly that will allow for or even require credible opposition and maybe this will bring about the evolution of a two-party system if it is indeed inevitable.


Enyinnaya Emmanuel Chukwueke


Green Label Project, Changing Nigeria Together

Sunday, 26 December 2010

How to win a Nigerian Election by GEJ & Co

This week SaharaReporters, in true Wikileaks fashion, leaked a copy of an internal document from the Jonathan/Sambo camp. Saharareporters described it as a manual for rigging the 2011 elections, they highlighted how the plan sought to use almost every tactic employable to win. Interestingly enough the document wasn’t leaked directly to SaharaReporters or in fact to any news agency; instead it turns out Atiku (or should I say Mr. Fox as he is referred to in the document) had a mole in the GEJ/Sambo camp who leaked it to him and he then released it to the media (and to western governments? As if they care?). So it’s out there, the question now is how damaging is this to Mr. President and his aspirations for 2011.

The most important thing is for anyone who cares to actually read the thing for themselves. It is freely available as provided by the good people of Saharareporters; and though it is a tad long, poorly written and repetitive in places it will surely find its place in the canon of modern Nigerian history as it provides a snapshot (albeit skewed) of the state of Nigerian politics in the run up to the 2011 elections.

The first thing to point out is that yes, it does allude to some illegal activity. It in some places advocates the abuse of the office of the President, the bribing of a vast range of people and the intimidation of political opponents. In fact it seems as though the person/people writing it have never heard of the word euphemism yet alone how to use it and it is this that adds some credence to the claim by its alleged author, Mr. Mike Omeri, that the document was doctored. But really who was surprised by these revelations. Who was surprised that the incumbent was going to use the security apparatus to his advantage? Who was surprised that he was going to try and influence INEC? Who was surprised that he would try and bribe party delegates? Who was surprised that he would offer people protection from prosecution? I think it’s safe to assume that most people anticipated these things, and it is probably safe to assume that Mr. President is not the only one who will be engaging in these tactics.

Assuming that the whole thing is real, there are a number of things that we may not have known that this document has revealed. Firstly it shows that the GEJ/Sambo ticket thinks that their priority is winning the PDP primaries. The whole document seems to be written on the basis that winning the PDP ticket is as good as winning the National election. This raises the immediate question: how can they be so sure? Two possibilities: One, the PDP, its history, its policies and its political ideology are so popular with the Nigerian electorate that it is inconceivable that they will lose. Or two, they are so confident in their ability to rig the hell out of the next elections that it doesn’t matter who gets the ticket, come May 29th they will be popping champagne in Aso Villa.

Secondly the GEJ campaign team see only the Fantastic Mr. Fox (Atiku Abubakar to you and I) as the only credible competition for PDP ticket. The oddest thing about the whole thing is that the authors were very half-hearted in their attempts to mask the identity of ‘Mr Fox’, at more than one point they refer to Mr. Fox and his wife Jennifer Douglas Abubakar, I mean they might as well have gone to the effort of writing ‘Mrs Fox’ or ‘Vixen IV’ (as she is his 4th wife) or better yet call him by his name. Naming issues aside, the document does a full SWOT analysis of the Atiku campaign, highlighting his strengths and the threat he may poses to Jonathan’s aspirations and outlining specifically how to exploit his weaknesses and highlighting opportunities to steal the march on him. The main strategy is to portray, the former Vice President as a criminal to wit the document produces some prototype campaign posters with such gems as:

‘Those of us who run intellectual business and academic schedule; the road ahead will be tortuous and challenging diplomatic situation as a result of the stigma of a convicted President and the damage to our national image. Please take his money if you are bribed but vote wisely and do the right things’

Encouraging the citizenry to take bribes from Atiku may seem questionable, but this fits in squarely with the strategy of the Jonathan campaign as it identified Atiku’s strengths as being ‘extremely wealthy’ so any way to run down his bank balance would be appreciated. The strategy also includes discrediting Mr. Abubakar as a ‘serial betrayer’ (having supposedly betrayed Obasanjo, Abiola, Yar’Adua and Tinubu) and a regional (as opposed to national) aspirant.

Another issue that was raised by this leaked memo, and was duly picked up on by the article on SaharaReporters, was the complacency of the mainstream Nigerian media in the execution of the strategies. The document name drops some of the top journalists, working at some of the most influential news agencies in Nigeria. However, the SR article doesn’t go far enough in showing how people from all walks of life are being bought off by politicians, the document lists musicians, Comedians, Dance troupes, ex-footballers, TV personalities, Churches, Mosques, NGO’s, Students and Intellectuals as well as of course politicians of all levels ranging from Local Government all the way to the Legislative Houses at Federal level. The BBC recently ran an article on the role of musicians in the elections in which the likes of D’banj and TwoShotz are given a tongue-wagging by Seun Kuti for selling out, in the light of the leaked memo these musicians should really question themselves as representatives of the youth.

One of the more interesting issues raised by the document is the role that Obasanjo is playing in the GEJ campaign. It is not made clear in the plan how much of the direction of the policy (legal or illegal), how much of the funding or how many decisions come directly from the former President, but what is clear is how important his political clout will be for Jonathan in this election campaign. The plan entrusts OBJ with winning over a number of difficult delegates, particularly in the South-West, in regards to Osun state the plan ominously says ‘OBJ is in charge’. How is it that a man who has no official role of importance in government or indeed in his party can be so influential? Is GEJ wise to entrust his political fortune to Obasanjo? And perhaps more importantly, what does it mean for our democracy when a man who was refused a third term still appears to be pulling the strings behind closed doors.

Lastly, the saddest thing about this whole saga is what it says about Nigeria. The plan isn’t all political intrigue, there is a section (albeit small) focussed on policies, fairly concrete policies on issues like power, education, transport, the Niger-Delta, agriculture, industry and poverty. It also in part takes on Atiku in the issue of the economy and does so without resorting to mud-slinging or smear tactics but rather by using publically available information. It says to Nigerians and a new generation of voters that elections are not fought on issues and are not won on policy, they are won by the power of money and as such it is no surprise that Nigeria is not moving forward. It is important to reiterate that because we have seen such a document from the GEJ camp, doesn’t mean that the same isn’t been done by other aspirants. The document shows that a great deal of work has gone into its production and an even greater deal of work will need to go into the execution of the strategies it suggests. If only the same amount of work was put into developing the policies that would improve Nigeria and the same amount of energy put into executing these policies then maybe Nigerian will improve for everybody. Attaining the office of the presidency has become an end in itself, everybody seems to have forgotten that it is meant to just be means to implementing your policies. In order for Nigeria to change, we as the people of Nigeria cannot be idle; we have to make sure our votes count and we have to make sure that we are voting for policies and not for personalities.

Enyinnaya Emmanuel Chukwueke
The Green Label Project, Changing Nigeria Together.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Rebranding Nigeria? Who exactly are we building up?

Over the last couple of weeks the Reno Omokri has been posting videos as part of the build up Nigeria Series. In true Nigerian Cinematic tradition, the films themselves are not going to wow people with their high production values. The actors aren't great: they struggle with the lines and lacked conviction; the editing and the direction left a little to be desired and I'm not sure they needed to be so long. The quality of the videos, however, isn't what the are being judged on, its undoubtedly the message that they aimed to convey.

The videos themselves are quite popular on youtube, the group is gaining popularity on Facebook and recently politicians, (including the king of Facebook, President GEJ) have been posting the links on their Facebook pages. They endorse the message that Nigerians should build up the image of Nigeria at home and overseas. Pat Utomi says

This is a video that every Nigerian should see. We really have to almost start from the scratch and build a new Nigeria that will consign those who have caused us an odious image worldwide to history. Watch, place on your profile and circulate. PU.
The popularity is easy to explain, we as Nigerians are so used to the negative stereotypes that follow the  country and quite frankly we are tired. The videos provide facts (a lot of facts) that allow you to say in fact Nigeria is not that bad, or does it?

What the videos actually do is reel of a list of achievements by Nigerians/people of Nigerian descent and a few things that sort of place Nigeria as a regional powerhouse. Taking the latter first,it seems to see the whole Liberia thing as a triumph, I'm not too sure. Was giving Charles Taylor, an alleged war criminal, asylum in Calabar the highlight of Nigerian diplomacy? Was funding Zanu ( now Zanu-PF) something we should shout about? Should the most populous African nation with the largest oil reserves on the continent be proud of being the second largest economy? The question must be asked, are these achievements really that great?

In regards to the former, the achievements of Nigerians all over the world is indisputable. We excel in all areas of life: sports, the arts, the professions, industry, commerce and politics. But what does all this say about Nigeria itself. The fact that there are more than 35,000 Nigerian doctors working in the US, yet the Nigerian healthcare sector is in a shambles. Nigerians underpin the IT and industrial sector in the West, yet Nigeria remains a technologically backwards country. These Nigerians are doing great things all over the world, yet Nigeria has been in a state of stasis for 50 years.

Am I saying that Nigeria doesn't need to be rebranded? Not exactly. What I am saying is that we need to know who we're rebranding it for. If it is for the developed world, then we need to be playing up Nigeria as a tourist destination or a safe and growing market for investment. I'm not sure the videos have done that yet. If it is for Nigerians however,  are we content with telling ourselves that things aren't that bad? That of the millions of Nigerians, thousands of us are living fulfilled lives?

The project is good in that its dispelling stereotypes about Nigerians, there are 150 million of us any statement made about Nigerians as a whole (good or bad) is bound to be untrue about the vast majority of us and so doing away with them is desirable. That said, Nigeria itself is a poor country with an unfair economic structure, where corruption is rife, where injustice prevails, where democracy is broken, where the basic necessities of life are beyond the reach of most people. There is no amount of rebranding, no advertising campaigns, no efforts at positive thinking that will change these facts. That is why it is so annoying that the politicians are clamouring to endorse the build up Nigeria series, it is an easy out to talk about the good work of Nigerians and the role of the media without asking the simple and blaringly obvious: why has so much good work by so many good Nigerians resulted in such little good for Nigeria?

So I guess what I am saying is go ahead and rebrand Nigerians but lets fix Nigeria. and to do this, we must be bitingly honest.
Enyinnaya Emmanuel Chukwueke

Saturday, 4 December 2010

What's the big deal about zoning?

There is  a feeling amongst the people that zoning as the PDP practices is an inherently evil and outdated practice. Something that reflects a harmful focus on ethnicity/region/religion as the focus of political life in Nigeria and something that must really be done away with in order for any sort of advancement to be made.

I must admit that this was my instinctive view, until yesterday when I was recording the second installment of the Green Label Podcast, in which zoning was the issue of discussion and I had to play devil's advocate and support it. While doing my research, I stumbled upon a very extensive dissertation written by one Nwachukwu Orji. It was more broadly about political power-sharing but touched on the concept of zoning as a means of distributing top office. It was epic (230 pages long), but it raised the question: Why do we need power-sharing in Nigeria?

Power-sharing is the sort of political arrangement that is brought in at the end of a war, or on the dissolution of an empire where the political groups are aligned along apparent ethnic or religious lines and so the only way to prevent destructive competition between the elite is for them to share power. The fact that Nigeria is not a homogeneous people isn't news to anyone, in fact it seems that the number of ethnics group in the country seems to go up every time someone is asked (340 as of yesterday). So in reality what it comes down to is whether or not ethnicity (or tribe in cruder terms) is the basis for politics in Nigeria.

Put simply it is: Nigeria has no real class system, other than the separation of rich and poor. The issues that really should be the foundation of political discourse: health, education, electricity, water etc. affect everyone almost equally. There is no ideology in our politics: there is no left, right or centre, no doves or hawks, no moderates or hard-liners. Lets face it the only way that politicians can carve the populace into any sort of support base, is on the 'natural' ones of ethnicity, religion and geography. This would not be a bad thing in itself if it had some sort of logic to it. If the beliefs of a Yoruba person was so different from that of an Efik person, if the worries of an Igbo person were so different from that of a Kanuri, if the ambitions of a Hausa person were so different from that of a Calabar person; then there would be some legitimacy in ethnic politics, but is that really the case? 

Has the alleged Northern domination of politics made life for a northerner better than that of a southerner? Has the 8 years of southern rule under OBJ made life better for southerners, or in fact for his own Yoruba people? Has any of the last 50 years of ethnic politics made life better for anyone? The truth is that the prebendal politics that exist in Nigeria only benefit the elite, it only persists because they have nothing else to offer us. Ethnicity is as important to your fortunes in Nigeria as what football team you support. As I think Yaradua was a Manchester United supporter so it is surely time for an Arsenal supporter to be president with that said I opt to put forward Kanu Nwankwo as a 2011 candidate.

Jokes aside, If we want an end to ethnic politics, we have to move politics on to the issues: how do you as a candidate from where-ever-the-hell-you-are-from plan to deal with the concerns of we the Nigerians? Until we the people demand that from our leaders we cannot just carry on complaining about the system of zoning. As long as people see ethnicity (or region or religion) as their primary political identity some sort of zoning will be required because people will go to further extremes in the name of these things than they will probably go to in the name of ideology or even in the name of the mighty Arsenal. 

The question now is what is your primary political identity.
The Green Label Project wants to illuminate these issues and show what politicians are saying (or not saying) about the things that really matter. So get involved, by joining the facebook group, liking the facebook page, looking out for the website that should be up in a matter of days and of course listening to the Podcast and maybe we can change Nigeria together.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Corruption Part 1: Scale and Causes

Corruption is something that Nigerians regularly experience, complain about and ultimately partake in. It exists in both private and public spheres of life, for the sake of this discourse however, analysis will be limited to the public sector. This is not because the problem of private corruption is not important but rather because while not excusable, it is understandable in an under-regulated or under-policed business environment for people acting in their private interest to act in a way so as to advance their own interest. For the sake of this analysis corruption shall be looked at as the abuse of public position or power for private gain. In aid of simplicity corruption in Nigeria should be seen as having three principle forms: Bribery, patronage and embezzlement.Also important is to distinguish between high and low level corruption where the level reflects the level of public officials involved. While the division is quite arbitrary and the two levels are undoubtedly connected, it is useful in highlighting different aspects, causes and consequences of corruption.
In the Nigerian context it may be important to distinguish between bribery and the ‘tradition’ of gift giving, but this is a very contentious issue. It will be generally accepted and indeed expected that a public official should receive numerous holiday hampers from all manners of businesses but then there may not be general acceptance if a public official were to receive a more substantial gift, say a car, from a business person or even from another public official. The point here is that the distinction is very subjective as such it is not worth arguing as to where the cut off lies, but rather we should distinguish between them on the level of secrecy and the idea of reciprocity. As a rule of thumb a gift is something that is given openly where both giver and receiver are willing to make the nature of the gift public and that the gift is not giving as payment or in anticipation of a favour. That said, because something falls short of either aspect of the test doesn’t automatically make it a bribe but it should at least raise suspicions.
Political patronage refers to the use of state resources to reward individuals for political support. In the context of Nigeria, patronage takes the forms of political clientelism, pork-barrelling, nepotism and cronyism. Different levels of patronage are seen as acceptable in different polities, in order to decide on the what the acceptable level is for Nigeria the discussion needs to be had and the rules of the game need to be agreed on accessible to all. In general however, it should be agreed that merit is the best basis for selection (the most qualified and/or experienced should get the job) and state resources should be allocated according to need.
Public embezzlement can be broadly defined as the misappropriation of government resources for private use by public officials. For the purposes of Nigeria, this definition may be considered by many too broad as it would include for example the use of government vehicles for private purposes like taking children to school, or the use of sirens to avoid traffic when on none-government business. While some may consider this sort of behaviour to be deplorable, for the sake of this analysis the definition of embezzlement should be limited to the misappropriation of public funds, i.e. money.
Before going any further it is important to note that the problem of corruption is vast in scale and in scope as is the literature and existing discourse on the subject. With that in mind this is neither meant to be an exhaustive nor prescriptive discussion. It is the job of the politicians to come up with solutions.
Scale of Corruption in Nigeria
Corruption is a difficult thing to measure partly because of the difficulties of defining what constitutes corruption but largely because of the secretive nature of corrupt acts. The most widely used measurement of corruption is the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) as compiled by the NGO, Transparency International. The organization defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain and its CPI seeks to measure the degree to which corruption is perceived amongst public officials and politicians on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being perceived absolute corruption and 10 being no perceived corruption at all. Nigeria scored 2.4 in 2010, which makes her the 130th least corrupt country in the world. To put into perspective, that is the same level of perceived corruption as Libya, less corrupt than Somalia (1.1) and Zimbabwe (2.2), but more corrupt than Benin (2.8), Jamaica (3.3) Ghana (4.1) and miles behind the least corrupt country New Zealand (9.4). The problem with this measure is how it measures perceived corruption; it is largely reliant on surveys carried out by and for international experts i.e. not the Nigerian public. It may be useful as a measure of how the world sees Nigeria, but it neither tells us how Nigerians see corruption in their country nor the true level of actualcorruption.
The true scale of corruption is available for Nigerians to see in their day to day lives. Low level corruption is evident in the public’s interaction with the police and other arms of the civil service. A bribe is required in order to avoid harassment or to gain the basic services that the institutions were set up to provide. Tales (if not the full details) of high level corruption fill the news media, at the time of writing the country’s anti-corruption agency has just released a list of over 100 persons suspected of corrupt practices, with the value of their corruption put in excess of 1.2 Trillion Naira. While it must be noted that these cases are in different stages of the legal process and many of these cases are by private individuals or firms. It helps to expose the scale of corruption in Nigeria. Corruption in Nigeria exists in the three aforementioned forms as there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of bribery, embezzlement and patronage. Though the extent of these things is hard to measure, they clearly exist at both high and low levels of public life.
Causes of Corruption in Nigeria
To begin with, there is a view expressed in the literature as the ‘Moral superiority’ view which asserts that the some societies (non-western) are for reasons of culture, religion, ethnic diversity amongst others more prone to corruption. In essence the argument is that some societies are just intrinsically corrupt of which Nigeria is often a cited example. This view must be rejected out of hand, as it has historically been an excuse for western companies to partake in corrupt practices and for Nigerian individuals to be complicit. If there is a cultural cause of corruption then it must be found and addressed in its own right without belittling the people and culture of Nigeria. What is clear is that the deep rooted nature of public corruption in Nigeria has a multitude of causes; these causes can be loosely grouped into historical, social, economic and political categories.
The post-colonial legacy further entrenched corruption, and the role of foreign investors cannot be underestimated, the lack of regulation relative to their parent countries and the myth of greater cultural acceptance of bribes mean that foreign firms come into Nigeria willing to throw bribes at eager public officials. Government interference in the private sector has been linked to increased levels of corruption, there is anecdotal evidence for this in Nigeria as can be seen with the petroleum, power and telecommunication sectors when they were still wholly state owned enterprises.
There is evidence to show that countries that were colonies in the last 100 years are more likely to have high levels of corruption. This argument certainly fits in with the historical narrative of Nigeria: during the period of colonization in Nigeria, there was little or no effort made by the metropolitan power to build authentic instruments of state. There was heavy reliance on the coercive power of money, often money taxed from the general population, to influence and control the local elite. The elite in turn used these resources to consolidate their position. The failure of state and nation building in the colonial era sowed the seeds of corruptions in all its forms: it created a situation in which the elite in public office saw embezzlement as their right or even their obligation, in which the access to these lucrative public offices became deeply political and in which bribery was the only means of access to state power and authority for those outside of public service.
There are also a host of social factors that cause or at least aid corruption in Nigeria. There is a body of evidence that links the acceptance of bribes with low levels of education. People have sought to build on the work of Lawrence Kohlberg stages of moral development; to show how lower levels of education hinder the development of perceptions of morality which in turns makes people more likely to accept and partake in corrupt practices. With more than 3 in 10 Nigerians over the age of 15 being illiterate and with the average Nigerian only expecting 9 years of education, the argument certainly seem to fit the facts of Nigeria.
There is also the role that ethnicity has to play, particularly in terms of patronage. Many fall back ethnic affinities when trying to consolidate one’s position, giving resources or jobs disproportionately to those of their ethnic group and the problem is exasperated by the sheer ethnic diversity of Nigeria.
A possible argument can be made about the involvement of women in public service, the argument being that women are less likely to engage in corrupt practices that their male counterparts as such under-involvement of women at both high level and low level public service aids the perpetuation of corruption.
The most pertinent of the research relating the social causes of corruption is that on the culture of corruption. The evidence shows that a person who has paid a bribe at some point in their life is more likely, should the situation arise, to take a bribe themselves. This analysis has been extended to patronage and logically can be extended to embezzlement in that the fact that people have witness massive embezzlement makes them more likely to engage in such practices once in office. The culture of corruption is self-perpetuating as it raises the level of acceptance amongst the general public.
The political causes of corruption are far reaching and often difficult to isolate. The problem is also complicated by trying to establish lines of causality i.e. if the issues mentioned cause the corruption or if corruption causes the issues. The weakness of executive (the police) and the judiciary (the courts) in catching and punishing the perpetrators of corrupt acts reduces the disincentive to be corrupt. There have been several attempts and initiatives made by successive governments to install a virile anti-corruption agency. However, the agencies have often suffered from being (or at least being perceived as being) political in their targets. Prosecutions have been slow at best and the punishments have failed to be proportionate to the crime and make little attempt to regain misappropriated funds. All this has weakened the effectiveness of being caught as a deterrent to engaging in corrupt practices, if anything weak executives and judiciaries further entrench corruption as it merely adds further people who need to be paid off.
It has often been noted that over-centralization in a federal system that rules over a large geography and/or demographic (like Nigeria) is a cause of corruption. As power and resources are concentrated from the centre state governments are totally reliant on the centre. Political aspirants rely on lines of patronage to gain access to office and the centre is able to reward the periphery through pork-barrelling and outright bribery. It creates less accountability to the people as accountability is only to the centre, which gives the state governments more scope for making and taking bribes as well as embezzlement. It has also been argued that state weakness is directly correlated to levels of corruption as such Nigeria fits the bill, the Brookings Institute places Nigeria in the bottom quintile of States in terms of strength with an overall score of 4.88 (with 0 being the worst attainable) and a political strength of only 3.51.
The economic causes of corruption are more straightforward. Corruption is higher in unequal societies because there is greater opportunity and greater reward for it. Poor people are not able to monitor and hold the rich and the powerful accountable, enabling them to misuse their position. This partly explains how in Nigeria so much high level corruption goes unreported as it is easier (cheaper) to buy off lower level actors. A root cause of low level corruption in Nigeria is the insufficiency of public sector salaries. If a police officer didn’t have to harass the average citizen to make his/her ends meet, (s)he probably wouldn’t. The same applies all the way up the civil service even to relatively high jobs, in comparison to their official salaries the amount of money that individuals or companies are willing to offer is more than significant, couple that with the expectation of patronage from family and community networks and the incentive for being corrupt is clearer.
There is also a negative correlation between the ease of doing business and the level of corruption i.e. the more procedures and bureaucracy needed to legally set up and run a business, the more likely people are to engage in corrupt practices. The International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group measures the ease of doing business by compiling data on the ease of setting up a business, employing workers, registering property etc. The least perceived as corrupt country, New Zealand, is ranked 2nd overall and first in terms of setting up a business, it takes 1 day and 1 procedure and costs 0.4% of the annual income per person to set up a business. Nigeria on the other hand, ranks 120th overall, it takes 8 procedures and 31 days to start a company and it costs 76.7% of the annual income per person to set up a business. In this environment there is an incentive to circumvent the official processes and as such an incentive towards corruption.
Corruption in Nigeria is a horrible beast, corruption itself creates conditions in which there is more opportunity for corruption and more willingness to engage in corrupt practices. As the situation deepens so to does its cost to Nigeria and even more worryingly so to does the scale of the effort needed to break the cycle.
Sorry for the length of the post, but the topic was vast. So vast that part two will be all about the effects of Corruption in Nigeria.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Inequality in Nigeria

Inequality in Nigeria is a thoroughly contentious problem. The difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ can be seen all too clearly, with the lavish lifestyles of a few juxtaposed amongst the squalor of the many. Inequality is closely related to the issue of poverty but the two issues should be looked at separately because ultimately the issue of inequality is not limited by poverty, inequality still exists in countries with low levels of absolute poverty. In fact the world economy as a whole shows high level of inequalities: low income countries account for 62% of the world’s population but only 6% of the world’s income. Inequality in Nigeria has three inter-related but distinct aspects, inequality of wealth, inequality of income and inequality of opportunity. It also takes at least three distinct dimensions: inequalities between urban and rural populations, between rich and poor, and between the genders. The gender issue is a serious and complex problem in itself and is part of a social phenomenon. Because it deserves a discussion in its own right so it will not be discussed here

Scope of Income Inequalities

Inequality is a very difficult concept to measure as it exists in many forms. The inequalities between the groups are further complicated by the inequalities within the groups and trying to treat the groups as homogenous masks the scale.

Data on wealth distribution in Nigeria is difficult to come by. This is partly because wealth and the sources of wealth raise deep political (and perhaps legal) questions. However, the fact that the self-professed richest black person on the planet is from the same nation where 54% of the population are living below the national poverty line, would suggest that there is a severely unequal distribution of wealth.

The Gini coefficient is a statistical measure of inequality which has been applied to national income distributions to measure income inequality in countries. It gives a 0 to a perfectly equal distribution and 1 to a perfectly unequal distribution. According to the CIA, Nigeria gets 43.7 (0.437) in 2003 on this scale, making it more unequal than Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania and Egypt to name but a few. This statistic while offering a snapshot of the situation in regards to income, doesn’t tell the whole story. There is also inequality of opportunity; while this is difficult to measure it exists in all facets of life. There is unequal access to education, to healthcare, to justice, to security, to capital and even to political representation. Some are able to live as full citizens while the majority are offered little by the state and are left to fend for themselves.

The causes of inequality

Inequality in Nigeria has multiple causes, it is undoubtedly possible to trace inequalities to pre-colonial societies: in the forms of social divisions, cast systems and domestic slavery, but the modern phenomenon has its roots in the colonial era. The urban –rural divide really became accentuated in this period as the extractive model of the colonial forces didn’t require them to thoroughly penetrate the hinterland. Commerce was centred round commercial and coastal areas and only the bare minimum of investment was made outside these areas. The system of indirect rule and the utilisation of local middlemen concentrated wealth (and ultimately power) in the hands of a few and thus entrenched the inequalities between rich and poor. The extractive economic model continued into the post-colonial era and was accelerated with the discovery of oil and the propagation of the oil sector. The concentration of amenities in urban areas continues. The structure of the economy is now such that most people (about 70%) are employed in the relatively unproductive agricultural sector, which accounts for only a third of national income.

There has also been a failure thus far on the part of government to institute redistributive policies. Part of the role of government is to ensure a level of equality in society. The most widely used systems of wealth redistribution are taxation, welfare and nationalization. The saga of state owned enterprises in Nigeria is a sad one; corruption and mismanagement have meant that nationalised industries instead of being redistributive have furthered society’s inequalities. The problem in Nigeria’s case has not been nationalization itself, but the way in which it has been done. When it comes to welfare in Nigeria there has been a mish-mash of government initiatives coupled with the work of religious, community and non-government organisations, however there remains no comprehensive welfare policy.

The Nigerian polity has consistently failed to develop a sustainable tax base within the nation. The government is over-reliant on oil revenue, with oil exports accounting for over 80% of Government revenue. Though there is an increasing awareness amongst State Governors of the importance of internally generated revenue (IGR), the failure to tax the average citizen and everyday businesses has countless ramifications both historically and for the future, but it is importance in the context of inequality. Revenue raised from taxation should be spent on providing the public goods and services such as education, healthcare etc that reduce the inequalities of opportunity that plague Nigeria. In addition to this a progressive tax system that tax higher earners more could also aid to balance inequality in all its forms. It is not enough to tax the population; the funds must then be used to improve the lot of the disadvantaged.

There are also more debateable things that may be at the root of the disparity in Nigeria. There is an argument to be made about the link between levels of democracy and levels of inequality, this makes intuitive sense and fits in with the facts as according to Freedom House’s ‘Freedom in the World Report 2010’, Nigeria is rated as ‘Partly Free’. There is also an increasingly popular argument that ethnic heterogeneity is causally related to inequality, again while the argument is contentious it does fit the facts of Nigeria which has over 250 distinct ethnic groups.

Finally, Inequalities of wealth and income perpetuate themselves and deepen inequalities of opportunity. The better off have better access to healthcare and education (both at home and abroad), they enjoy better job opportunities, easier access to financial markets, higher levels of justice and security, and more political access and participation. Through the process of wealth condensation, newly created wealth tends to concentrate in the possession of those who have the means to invest (the already wealthy). So without outside intervention, the market in an unequal society tends to worsen the problem of inequality.

The implications of Inequality

Firstly, inequality is undesirable in itself. Attached to the concept of true democracy is an egalitarian ideal and one of the duties of a democracy is to work towards this ideal. However, there are implications of high levels of inequality that pertain to the economic, political and social aspects of society.

The economic consequences are not entirely clear. There is a body of work that suggests that societal inequalities inspire greater innovation and ingenuity in the economy. On the other hand, the World institute for Development Economic Research argue that highly unequal societies (a Gini coefficient of 0.40 or greater) for a range of reasons s detrimental to economic growth. In a global context inequality amongst nations causes growth in better off countries at the expense of poorer countries.

From a political standpoint, the inequality of access to power is an important one. Politics in Nigeria is a rich man’s game, the system excludes representation of the less advantaged in the institutions of state. Less advantaged people also contribute less to political discourse and have little influence on political policy at all levels of government and even parties. The actual workings of power are the domain of an elite few who have the means to participate, this is at the root of bad governance and the demise of true democracy. The disparity of wealth means that the political class is able to manipulate the political process through legal and illegal means.

The greatest impact of inequality is on the social level. Inequality has its major effect on social cohesion. In unequal societies people are less likely to trust each other. This is a serious problem in a relative young country which has lived through a civil war, it means that economic problems are easily framed as regional, religious or ethnic problems. The term social capital is one often brandished around but is somewhat difficult to define; broadly speaking it is the value of the social networks of society. This value is evident in participation in public and communal organizations, engagement with public officials, adherence to legal and social duties and other forms of social participation. Inequality reduces social capital and as such has negative effects on everything from the effectiveness of education to the development of civil societies.

Inequality is also a cause of crime and this is of particular importance in Nigeria, with the problems of theft, armed robbery, internet scams and the plague of ‘area boys’ amongst others a constant concern amongst the citizenry. Inequality also opens the door for white collar crime. Those with the means are able to take advantage of those without as is evident in the continuing banking sector scandals. The low pay of many relative to a few fuels low level corruption, this manifests itself in a corrupt and inept civil service and security force which in turn results in poor delivery of public services. Such levels of corruption, for which Nigeria is famous worldwide, affect the country the economic performance of the country and the credibility of the political structure.

Inequality is a difficult topic to discuss, let alone to solve. The people in a position to talk about it and act on it are predominantly those that benefit most from the status quo. There therefore has to be a general national consensus that attacking the problem of inequality is fundamental to improving the current condition and the future prospects of Nigeria as a whole.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010



Like many of the problems we face in Nigeria, unemployment is a social, political and economic issue. While it is possible to look at it from any of these angles, it is easiest to examine it from an economic standpoint as it is this way that the social and political ramifications become evident.

The scope of unemployment in Nigeria

Simply speaking the rate of unemployment is the percentage of the work force that is without a job. The official statistics for unemployment measure the percentage of the population of working age (16-64) that are not in work but are looking. Surprisingly, in 2007 this rate was 4.9% which automatically seems inconsistent with the actual work situation in the nation. The low rate exposes a problem with this measurement which ignores forms of hidden unemployment and underemployment. It tends to ignore full time housewives who would be economically active; it ignores people outside the official working age (especially those under the age of 15); it ignores the unpaid family and domestic workers; it ignores the underemployment in the agricultural sector and in the taxi/ ‘okada’ industry. The list goes on and in Nigeria, where woman and young people are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding formal employment, the future appears perilous because as the young population increases and the difference between levels of male and female employment reduces, the number of unemployed will swell.

Consistent with this, the Federal Government in 2009 admitted that the true unemployment rate was as much as 28% with as many as 40 million people unemployed in Nigeria. This is not to suggest that the government is deliberately misinforming people, but it is evident that the current system of measuring unemployment is not fit for purpose in the Nigerian context. Nigerians would certainly find it hard to believe that only 1 in 20 people is unemployed.

The causes of unemployment in Nigeria

Unemployment may seem an emotive and complex subject, but in basic terms, the number of unemployed is simply the difference between the number of people willing to work and the number of jobs available. In supply and demand terms, this translates to the difference between the SUPPLY OF LABOUR and DEMAND FOR LABOUR. The underlying problem of unemployment is that the supply of labour is greater than the demand for labour. The question to be addressed therefore is simply why is the supply for labour so high and the demand for labour so low?

The high supply for labour

There are two factors which are positively correlated to the supply of labour:

I. The size of the working age population.

The present population of Nigeria is roughly 150 million people (with 40% of the population under the age of 15). Compared with 100 million in 1990, the current annual population growth rate is 2-3% and this will undoubtedly increase in the future. By 2050, the population is expected to be between 250 and 290 million. This massive population growth has already and will continue to increase the size of the labour force. Longer life expectancy and greater female involvement in the labour force will also increase the supply of labour.

II. The willingness of the working age population to participate in the labour market.

Poverty greatly affects willingness to work. The absence of a welfare system or social safety net and low levels of development mean that many people work on a subsistence level. At the extremes of poverty, no choice exists regarding whether to work or not; it is a necessity for survival. At such poverty levels, the options are either work, beg or die.

Also increasing the willingness to work is the increase in the number of formally educated individuals. Education itself and its cost means that educated are likely to demonstrate a willingness to work. Despite failings in the education sector, the enrolment and graduation rates in Nigeria are on the rise.

The relative improvements of transport, information and communication systems have improved the flexibility of the labour force which in turn increases the supply of labour.

The low demand for labour

It does seem like an absurd criticism to make, that the supply of labour is too great. One would expect that in such a vibrant economy, growth of the labour force would be welcomed and put to strategic use as we have seen with relative success in India and China. The problem cannot be viewed as the abundance of labour; rather, the problem is the low demand for labour. This seems intuitive as public consensus is that there are too few jobs available. So why after a decade of reasonably high economic growth has there been no real improvement in employment. This question of low job creation in Nigeria is multifaceted and very often contentious. As with most things though, it is a result of a number of factors.

One possible reason is that GDP growth in the last decade wasn’t strong enough. The average growth fell below the 7% threshold which the UN argues is necessary to reduce poverty and improve living conditions. However, this is simply a guideline and Nigeria averaged 5.5% GDP growth for the period and as such, was not far off the threshold.

Perhaps more important is the nature of the growth that Nigeria experienced. The large growth in 2004-2007 was largely based on rising commodity prices, particularly that of oil, and didn’t necessarily translate into job creation. This is symptomatic of the Nigerian economy and helps to explain the low demand for labour. The major growth industries are commodity based and/or very capital intensive (i.e. they require heavy investment in machines and technology and not on labour) so the economy can continue to ‘grow’ without any real increases in the number of people employed.

On a different note, perhaps the labour being supplied is inadequate in kind or quality for employers. Many employers do not trust local education institutions for various reasons and presently school leavers may not be gaining the qualifications required by the economy. The labour market isn’t absorbing university graduates as evidenced by poor the placement and retention record of the NYSC programme. This issue constitutes a bigger problem with education in Nigeria and should be left for a separate discussion.

The trend in international politics is in favour of austerity, there is a movement towards a smaller state, both in size (the amount the government is doing/spending) and in scope (the range of activities that government takes on). In this respect, Nigeria has not been an exception. This directly results in fewer public sector jobs, with little or no plans having been made for those who were ‘retrenched’. The reduction of government spending also reduces demand in the economy which in turn has a negative effect on employment.

The manufacturing sector in the developing world is an under-utilized avenue of job creation. Through labour-intensive processes, local operators can satisfy much local demand for value products and demand for labour. Low investment and a poor business environment however, hinder the development of this sector. Erratic electricity supply represents a major cost to a manufacturer and could be the difference between profit and loss or the difference between taking on an employee or not. However, this is not the only problem, access to finance, the technology gap, poor research and development, scarcity of reliable data, poor transport systems, competition from cheap imports also hinder this sector. These are all issues in their own right but their current state compounds the problem of employment. The agricultural sector is also in need of reform as it currently employs 70% of the population but only yields 33% of GDP. But like manufacturing it is a complex topic that requires its own analysis.

The Implications of unemployment

The most direct result of unemployment is on the economy as a whole. People out of work do not contribute much to the economy, and as such, the economy performs below its optimal level. The result is slowed rates of economic growth and ultimately less development.

Unemployment also reduces the tax base of the society. This is often an underestimated problem but it manifests in two ways. Firstly, the reduced tax base means that government has fewer funds available for state projects. This results in fewer public services and lower public investment. The second problem is more subtle but no less serious: taxation is an important element of state building; people need to take a vested interest in the state so they have legitimacy and the incentive to hold their leaders to account. This is of particular pertinence to Nigeria where accountability is a big issue.

There are also wide social implications of unemployment. Some are more obvious problems and warrant their own discussion, such as crime, militancy, the black market and human capital flight (the brain drain). The effects of these problems are known by Nigerians and are felt in very real ways in day to day life. There are also social implications that we cannot yet know the full extent of. As Nigeria’s population explodes and multiplies, the real danger is for the second generation born into a society with a culture of unemployment.

Monday, 27 September 2010

The List

Dear Sir,
I hope this reaches you in good health. My name is Enyinnaya Emmanuel Chukwueke. While I could provide a summary of my short life so far and why amongst the sea of people who must be vying for your attention I should be listened to, I don't feel its important or in fact necessary. What is important is that I am a young Nigerian and I am proud to be one and as your ambition is to lead our country my views (alongside those of every Nigerian) should matter immensely to you. With the 2011 elections around the corner and everyone in the nation filled with a cocktail of excitement and anxiety, the field is awash with numerous candidates each professing to have the best interest of Nigeria at heart. While each politicians boast of past achievements or clean records, I think what is far more important than the nature of the candidate is his or her plan for our country Nigeria. The election should not be decided on which person is preferred by more people, but rather by whose vision for Nigeria is shared by the most people. In this regard, most of the political discourse so far has been lacking. So it is with this in mind and with all due respect that I ask that you clarify your position on the issues facing Nigeria.
I am aware that the issues facing Nigeria are complex; they are often inter-related, over-lapping and deep rooted. However, I feel that the problems can be separated out into broadly speaking Political, Economic and Social ones. Within these broad categories there are a number of individual issues which I have outlined below. Although as of the time of writing there is no official date for the 2011 elections, I feel we can safely say it is at least 25 weeks away and as such I have devised a 26 instalment programme that will hopefully clarify your vision for Nigeria. I understand that you must be busy and as such expecting detailed analyses of the issues and detailed policy plans is perhaps unrealistic, but by not letting the people know where you stand you are really missing the opportunity to win over a nation that is no longer satisfied to vote along ethnic, religious or patronage lines. Nigerians want substance and to rescue the nation and restore it to its rightful place at the forefront of Africa, we need a plan.
1) ​Political
a) Corruption and Patronage
b) The Niger-Delta
c) Ethnicity and Nationalism
d) Electoral reliability
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​e) The constitution and constitutional reform
f) The party system and political participation

2) ​Economic
i​) ​​Macroeconomic Issues​​​​​​
a​) Full employment
b) Price Stability
c)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ Economic Growth
d) Balance of Payments
ii) ​Microeconomic Issues​​​​​
a) Redistributing income and wealth
b) Reducing regional disparity
c) Correcting market failures
d) Food security​

3) ​Social
a) Poverty​​​​​​​
b)​ Education
c) Healthcare
d) Corruption
e)​​​​​​​​​​ Crime and Justice
f) Ethnic/religious violence
g) Technological Gap
h) Welfare and social security
i) Gender equality
j) Human Rights
4) Priority
Amongst all these issues, what is the priority for the next government of Nigeria?
So what do I want from you? Right now, I would simply ask you to look at the list and remove from it any issues you think are not pertinent or not within the remit of government and add to it any issues that you feel are but are not on the list. After this, each week I will expound the issue in question as I see it and ask for your thoughts in each case and possible solutions. While I really do hope you take me seriously and that you do respond, I will continue to write to you each week even if you do not. I thank you for your time and sincerely wish you all the best. This letter is open and as such I welcome the thoughts and contributions of my fellow Nigerians
Humbly yours,
Enyinnaya Emmanuel Chukwueke