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A Nation on Tiger’s Back

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nation on tiger back

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

In the words of Justin Merkins, a world-acclaimed management consultant, there are clear thinkers, muddled thinkers and people that fall in between.

Clear thinkers -are the ones that can cull everything down into the right points-are very hard to find. But if you get yourself a team of clear thinkers, the possibilities are endless. These are men who see tomorrow, trailblazers and high-level executives, but most often misunderstood by some fellow countrymen still stuck in the old normal of yesterday.

From the above-outlined attributes of clear thinkers, it will not be considered an overstatement to conclude that Nigeria’s Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, falls into the bracket of a clear thinker.

This position is predicated on his (Dare) warning on the 27th August 2019, in Abuja while delivering his goodwill message at the launch of the 2019 Futures Awards Africa to commemorate the 2019 International Youth Day, that Nigeria’s future remains endangered except the excesses of youths are checked “We need to lead them on the path that will benefit our society the most.

If we leave them to their own whims, we will endanger our collective tomorrow. “The youths are our future. They are our assurance that we have tomorrow. How bright that tomorrow becomes depends on us. It will depend on the efforts we put in today,” Dare said.

About one year after that ‘prophetic’ statement was made; the negative consequence resulting from the inability to abide by such warning has become a word made flesh and now dwells among us.

Glaringly, the recent quest for a new order in the country spearheaded by Nigerian youths, and other strategic’ interplays, conflicts and considerable uncertainties of the past weeks which exposed the ‘civil but cold’ relationship between politicians and Nigerians is on the one hands a perfect example. Notedly also, it in more than one way underscores the usefulness of the attachment theory of 1958, as propounded by John Bowlby, a British psychologist.

Adding context to the discourse, Bowlby, in that theory pointed out that ‘if a primary caregiver responds inappropriately and/or inconsistently, the infant learns to assume that he or she is powerless to affect the larger world and that his or her signals have no intrinsic significance where the universe is concerned. A child he added, who receives really erratic and inconsistent responses from a primary caregiver, even if those responses are occasionally warm and sensitive, develops anxious resistance and indifferent attachment.

For all intents and purposes, it captures the current political temperature and disposition of Nigerians towards the leaders once considered as caregivers. The previous broken political promises and disappointments, for example, made the youths active on social media. And through the process, they learned strategic lessons.

First, aside from the new awareness that the qualities required for success are the same that undermines success, Nigerians appear to have suddenly come to the realization that political participation is a broader category of political behaviour and consists of those voluntary activities by citizens that are intended to influence the election of leaders or the decisions they make.

Again, not only have Nigerians come to term that ‘power concedes nothing without a demand, to a certain extent, they have expressed dissatisfaction/frustrations that the nation is governed by people that do not feel the pinch the common man is made to endure, noting that their feelings/opinion are not regarded by the government.

There are major realities and instances of gradual and silent infringements on the masses by the present administration that has not only caused Nigerians to stagger in confusion and incomprehension but left the nation on the tiger’s back.

Take as an instance, at the wake of the All Progressive Congress (APC) formation in 2013, the party according to reports presented to Nigerians a 29 paged documents prepared by the Audu Ogbe led 20 man manifesto Committee, where the party among other promises, stated that the APC mission would be anchored on the point that the task before the current generation is to build on the achievements of our heroes past, and Bequette an enduring legacy for the future generation.

Noting that its guiding principles would derive impetus from the six principles of; belief in, and the fear of God; upholding the rule of law; preserving national unity; pursuit of a just and egalitarian society; the building of strong institutions; commitment to social justice and economic progress and promotion of representative and functional participatory democracy. It was on this premise that Millions of Nigerians defied all odds and voted out the PDP and in its place, voted the All Progressive Congress into power in 2015 and 2019 respectively.

Today, while the party has denied making such promises, social justice, economic progress, representative and functional participatory democracy are all under attacks.

All Nigerians now hear is but excuses that produce monument of nothingness; Nigeria cannot work because the past administration did a whole lot of damage to the economy/system. The Nigerian youth who sleeps in the street and excruciating poverty and starvation drives into the ranks of the beggars whose desperate struggle for bread renders them insensible to all feelings of decency and self-respect are lazy.

What however renders the whole argument as verge, ungraspable and spurious is that if the nation’s economy could not slip into recession under the last administration that allegedly mismanaged it, why has recession become a recurring decimal-as it has occurred twice in less than 5years (2016 and 2020) under the present administration?

Away from the issue of economy/recession, if we must ever think of one event in recent times that appeared most ‘brazing’ and probably did more than anything else to convince Nigerians with critical interest to look differently at the out of an ordered situation in the country, it is the present administration’s management of Premium Motor Spirit(PMS).

In 2016, with just one year in the office, despite the electoral promise to reduce petrol price fromN87 that he met it, President Muhammadu Buhari, against all known logic increased the price to N145; an increase of about N58 and action that further perpetuated poverty and consolidated powerlessness among Nigerians.

Before Nigerians visited with such oppression could absorb the shock occasioned by the increase, they were again in August 2020, informed by the PPMC of further increase.

It reads, ‘’Please be informed that a new product price adjustment has been effected on our payment platform. To this end, the price of premium motor spirit (PMS) is now one hundred and fifty-one naira, fifty-six kobo (N151.56) per litre. This is effective 2nd September 2020.

Once more, before the dust raised by the 2nd September 2020 pump price increase could settle, another was up. The burden of the hike was again placed on innocent Nigerians with the upward review of PMS Price to N170 per litre.

This came in a season when the poor masses still struggle with nostalgia over other increases such as; an increase of Value Added Tax (VAT) from five to 7.5 per cent, re-introduction of Stamp Duty Charge, re-introduction of Stamp Duty on house rents and C of O transactions and the electricity prices.

Despite all these unpalatable signals and feedback from the poor masses, our nation’s handlers have not deemed it necessary to appraise the entire process in order to situate if these increases are achieving the targeted results.  But instead, they pushed on, focusing on trivial concerns while forgetting to address the fundamental issues.

Notedly, Nigerians may presently have no one to comfort them because on the side of their oppressors there is power. However, President Muhammadu led administration must not fail to remember the admonition by AL Gore, a former Vice President of the United States of America (USA), that the visibility of democracy depends upon the openness, reliability, appropriateness, and responsiveness, and two-way natures of the communication between the leader and the led.

If they receive responses that seem to be substantive but actually are not, citizens begin to feel as if they were being manipulated. If the messages they receive from the media feed this cynicism, the decline of democracy can be accelerated.

In the same vein, if citizens of a country express their opinions and feelings over an extended period of time without evoking a meaningful response, then they naturally begin to feel frustrated. This has happened all too often to poor masses who suffer prejudice and are not given a fair hearing by their leaders.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via; jeromeutomi@yahoo.com or 08032725374.

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CEPEJ and the Reality of Niger Delta Underdevelopment Crisis

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flood in bayelsa niger delta

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Talking about the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, it is true that today there exists in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) which made some far-reaching provisions for the host community’s development such as its demand that any oil prospecting licence or mining lease or an operating company on behalf of joint venture partners (the settlor) is required to contribute 3% of its actual operating expenditure in the immediately preceding calendar year to the host communities development trust fund. This is in addition to the existing contribution of 3% to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

It is also true that recently, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President of Nigeria, at a function in Lagos noted that the present administration was determined to see through to the completion of all the critical projects in the region.

Once more, we are equally witnesses to the fact that the Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, after a meeting in Port Harcourt, said his ministry was in talks with key stakeholders in the Niger Delta region on devising a blueprint for alternative ways to preserve, conserve and restore mangrove in the region.

Abubakar, who said the destruction of mangroves was catastrophic to the economy of the nation, noted that the resolution of the meeting in Port Harcourt was to focus on starting with short term goals of seeking alternative means of making people stay away from mangrove destruction.

However, if a serious statistical study is carried out about the area, it may be ‘amazing’ how the Niger Delta region has, and despite all these moves remained a backward and degraded, coastal region occasioned by crude oil exploration, exploitation and production with no better chance of development as the government is not ready to learn from its past mistakes which bother on the adoption of a non-participatory approach to development that strips the people of the region their sense of ownership over their own issues.

And as a consequence, cast a long dark shadow on efforts to improve the wellbeing and economic development of the region’s individuals, peoples, and communities while resulting in a state where the region’s communal right to a clean environment and access to clean water supplies was brazenly violated. And fierce war raged in the region between ethnic and social forces over the ownership and control of oil resources in the Niger Delta.

Bringing this ugly account to the fore is a recently well-timed statement/alarm raised by the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), Comrade Mulade Sheriff, calling on the Federal Government of Nigeria not to hands-off Niger Delta region until it completes the environmental remediation and socio-economic rejuvenation of the zone devastated by long periods of oil spill neglect, crude oil exploration/exploitation, deprivation and marginalization.

The group spoke recently in Warri, Delta State against the backdrop of speculations, claims and counterclaims in some quarters regarding the advent of the PIA that the federal government will abandon its responsibility to remediate the environment.

It was argued that the PIA and allocation of 3% to host communities do not mean the federal government should shy aware of its primary responsibility of providing basic amenities for and care for her citizens, especially when the government is the main beneficiary of oil production proceeds from the region and the cause of degradation of the Niger Delta environment.

The environmental rights group, while speaking with newsmen in Warri, asserted that it is the responsibility of the Nigeria government and oil companies to remediate the degraded environment, pay adequate compensation to affected host communities and rejuvenate the lost socio-economic wellbeing of Niger Deltans for the impoverished state caused by crude oil exploration activities engineered by the federal government.

CEPEJ drew the attention of the federal government and other relevant agencies to the fact that the region has long been degraded and the environment devastated before the emergence of PIA, hence, it cannot and should not hide under the Act to further marginalize the region, rather, it should be directly involved in the remediation and socio-economic rejuvenation of the region.

Remediation and rejuvenation of the socio-economic life of the people in the Niger Delta region of the country is a responsibility that is extremely important which successive administrations have failed to address and spent far too long a time not only to attend to but also to accomplish.

In explaining the importance of the PIA to host communities, CEPEJ said “the Law or Act cannot take retrospective effect on the people it’s meant to benefit and Nigerians should not lose sight of the beneficial reality of the Act.

“Before the federal government can hands off the Niger Delta, it must complete its environmental remediation as well as socioeconomic rejuvenation of the environment which is what the federal government owns the people living in the region.

“It will be unethical for the federal government to hands off at a time when the world is in agreement in terms of citizen and communal right of the people, and that it is the communal rights of the Niger Delta people to have a clean environment and access to clean water supplies which are being violated by Nigeria government and oil-producing companies operating in the region.”

It also asserts that, by the admission of oil companies to the region, ‘the oil industries have abandoned thousands of polluted sites in the region which need to be identified and studied in detail, He, therefore, called on environmental experts to go the extra mile to identify these spots, study them and make cases for the affected communities.

While complaining about the negative effect of oil operations in the Niger Delta, CEPEJ said due to degradation of the environment, aquatic organism and water supply sources are being adversely affected including the health and wellbeing of the people which has resulted in high mortality.

He also said that the present environmental state caused by oil companies and their operational activities need to be recovered while affected communities are adequately compensated for their losses.

Referencing what is obtainable in other oil-producing nations around the world, the rights group said, “We expect the federal government to apply what is obtainable in countries such as the Netherlands where the Dutch government requires all operators to restore their areas of operation back to how nature intended, which means all infrastructures used for operations during active production will be removed at the end of production and proper maintenance of the environment need to be carried out.”

“He said this method of operation is referred to “abandonment liability” which the operating company need to carry out at the end of active operation, and that is what he expects the Nigeria government to emulate.

On the management of the 3% to host communities, the group submitted that the 13 per cent oil derivation fund and the PIA fund are meant to address the environmental, ecological and infrastructural development issues of oil communities and “we expect that should be done to better the lives of people living in oil and gas host communities.”

He further insisted that the 3 per cent PIA fund should be managed by the Host Community Trust Fund as stipulated by the PIA.

It concluded that leaving the funds under the hands of Ministers or State Governors to control or even nominate candidates to manage the fund for host communities might lead to its being mismanaged the same way the 13% derivation fund allocated to oil and gas producing states for the development of oil and gas host communities was misappropriated.

To avoid a repeat of such stories, the host communities should nominate credible individuals to manage the Host Community Trust Fund as stipulated in the PIA for speedy infrastructural development and environmentally friendly condition of the oil-rich region of Nigeria.

Indeed, CEPEJ, in my view, may not be wrong.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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#EndSARS: No Real Consequence for Leadership Failures in Nigeria

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Chinwendu Ohakpougwu Consequence for Leadership Failures

By Chinwendu Ohakpougwu

I was in Zanzibar, on a work leave when the protest that held Nigeria standstill happened. It was the #EndSARS, a protest which was largely and primarily against police brutality, but which spiralled to all other things holding the Nigerian nation down.

It was the 20th of October 2020 precisely – and our flight had left for Nigeria from Zanzibar. We had a stop-over in Addis Ababa. Just as we landed in Ethiopia, we received news that flights were grounded from entering Nigeria.

This was the second time I could clearly see a reflection of what I had watched in the movie ‘Sometimes in April’. We had no transit visas and were stranded in a foreign land – with our own country evidently in ruins. It was a painful feeling. It was clear things had gone out of hand.

The airport hotel we were put in felt like some prison. Apparently, they too had received the news of what was happening in Nigeria – and they made sure to treat us in a way that was demeaning. We were not let out of the hotel. They wouldn’t let us have the keys to our rooms. We slept that night, praying and hoping that the next day we would receive good news from Nigeria. Some of us had started to make plans about taking a flight to neighbouring Ghana, after all, we had the ECOWAS passport.

Miraculously, the next morning, they allowed a few more flights into the country and we took the opportunity. Ethiopian Airlines landed in Lagos in the late afternoon on the 21st of October amidst great tension. There were soldiers everywhere. We were told not to leave the airport, but most people tried to get accommodation in the hotels around the international airport.

They had to walk long distances to these hotels in Ajao. No cab wanted to leave the airport premises – and those who eventually did charged outrageous prices.

As we walked out of the airport premises to find hotels nearby, the young men littered around, blocking the road, yelled at us and cursed us, that we were the mistresses to some of these politicians and are kept away from the chaotic scenes happening back in Nigeria. They searched our bags and took some items. Soldiers were patrolling like it was Lebanon, the air was too tense and volatile. Eventually, I made it back home, safely.

Fast-forward – it’s 20th October 2021, and I am witnessing the memorial of the #EndSARS. The feeling is still the same – hurt everywhere, and yet more oppression and injustice can still be seen and felt. It is as though we never picked up any lesson one year after.

As a Comms person, I try to look at these things with an industry eye and wondered why the Lagos state governor was not present at the #EndSARS memorial. I had an exchange with a friend heavily involved in political PR and he said something that struck me “Two weeks after the 2020 massacre, APC won the election in that same senatorial zone by like 10k votes. Do you know what 10k votes are? You can mobilize 10k people.

So, when I sit with politicians and tell them to care about young people, they can only scoff because there is no consequence to ignoring them. Each time events like this happen, all politicians need to do is ignore their social media accounts for a while, send some other young people to disrupt the activities and the world is fine again.”

This, right here is my vexation with Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB – all that power and influence and yet all they do in the SE is a Sit At Home? What happened to real influence over who wins elections in the SE? What about teaming with the people to pick only the crop of leaders who are fit for the future we want to achieve? Nigerian youths have the numbers – and in all games, numbers are great leverage. Get out and get involved in politics. The change we desire will not happen on social media. Let us start to strategically get more smart young people into the National Assembly. That is where true and long-lasting change happens.

Chinwendu Ohakpougwu is the Head of Corporate Communications at DLM Capital Group

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Nigeria: Between Persuasive Leaders and Coquettish Behaviour

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Persuasive Leaders

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

For most of our political history, concept and reality, particularly banking on the underlying understanding of a Coquette by Robert Green, the author of The 48 Laws of Power, it will not be out of place to describe an average Nigerian as a Coquette.

The reason stems from the belief that they are experts at arousing desire through a provocative appearance or an alluring attitude.

Their strength lies in their ability to trap people emotionally and to keep their victims in their clutches long after that titillation of desire. This is the skill that puts them in the ranks of the most effective seducers. Instead of persuasion, some resort to lies, many to propaganda while the rest take to intimidation of their followers.

Regrettable, while this attribute has not only flourished but thrived with unhindered access in Nigeria, it is true that today in many parts of Europe, America and Asia; it is in sharp contrast with the demand of modern leadership. Let’s look at particulars that support this claim.

First, writing on the theme the Necessary Art of Persuasion, Jay A Conger, a Henry R. Kravis Research Chair in Leadership Studies at Claremont Mckenna College, noted that gone are the command-and-control days of executives managing by decree.

Persuasion is widely perceived as a skill reserved for selling products and closing deals. It is also commonly seen as just another form of manipulation-devious and to be avoided.

Certainly, persuasion can be used in selling and deal-clinching situations, and it can be misused to manipulate people. But exercised constructively and to its full potential, persuasion supersedes sales and is quite the opposite of deception.

Effective persuasion he argues become a negotiating and learning process through which a persuader leads colleagues to a problem’s shared solution. Persuasion does indeed involve moving people to a position they don’t currently hold, but not by begging or cajoling. Instead, it involves careful preparation, the proper framing of arguments, the presentation of vivid supporting evidence, and the effort to find the correct emotional match with your audience.

Also, Deborah Tannen, a Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University, in a similar research report titled The Power of Talk, Who Gets Heard and Why, underlined something that could be described as a missing link in Nigeria’s leadership corridor when she among other things thus observed that In organizations, formal authority comes from the position one holds. But the actual authority has to be negotiated day-to-day. The effectiveness of individual managers/leaders depends in part on their skill in negotiating authority and on whether others reinforce or undercut their efforts. The way linguistic style reflects status plays a subtle role in placing individuals within a hierarchy.

Often, so many leaders assume persuasion is a one-shot effort. Persuasion is a process, not an event. Rarely, if ever, is it possible to arrive at a shared solution on the first try. More often than not, persuasion involves listening to people, developing a new position that reflects input from the group, more testing, incorporating compromises, and then trying again. If this sounds like a slow and difficult process, that’s because it is. But the results are worth the effort.

Now, this is the lesson that every leader in Nigeria must draw from this conversation.

For a leader to be a successful persuader, Deborah Tannen and Jay A Conger were unanimous in agreement that such a leader must ask this question; do those I am hoping to persuade see me as helpful, trustworthy, and supportive?

The duo also said something striking.

Let’s listen again; some leaders think the secret of persuasion lies in presenting great arguments. In persuading people to change their minds, great arguments matter. No doubt about it. But arguments, per se, are only one part of the equation.

Other factors matter just as much, such as the persuader’s credibility and his or her ability to create a proper, mutually beneficial frame for a position, connect on the right emotional level with an audience, and communicate through vivid language that makes arguments come alive.

In my view, it will not be considered as an overstatement to conclude that was Nigeria’s public office holder’s quest to achieve persuasive purpose considered as strategic, that explains as well as propels the never-ending manner with which offices such as the Minister of Information (for the federal government), the Commissioners for Information (states), chief press secretaries, senior special assistant (media), senior special assistant media (technical), special assistant (media), special assistant (information gathering), special assistant (print media) and special assistant (electronic media), among others are created.

Under this arrangement, a government spokesperson communicates to people the work done (i.e. political and institutional) by the government. The task of assisting and supporting the members of the government and the government itself is assigned to the spokesperson.

However, the question may be asked: has the discussed topic any relevance in Nigeria public leadership arena? How well have these appointed/elected public officials performed/harnessed persuasive leadership strategies in their day to day administrations? What is the future of persuasive leadership in Nigeria? What will the state of public leadership in Nigeria be like in hundred years to come; success or failure?

While providing answers to the questions are as important as the piece itself, one thing that bothers me, in addition, is that instead of developing the art and act of persuasive leadership, most of the present public office holders in Nigeria are capped with the spirit/attributes of Paul Joseph Goebbels, a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. He was one of Adolf Hitler’s closest and most devoted associates and was known for his skills in public speaking and his deeply virulent antisemitism, which was evident in his publicly voiced views.

This newfound attribute by Nigerian public office holders has made the innocent/well-intentioned position of persuasion in leadership become a platform for fierce political and ideological warfare in ways that negates rationality as human beings.

A great amount of innocent human character has been spilt, wars of words waged, countless souls/ambition persecuted and martyred.

Spokespersons have in recent times failed to communicate noble ideas and ideals. This consequence of their failures is responsible for why anarchy presently prevails in the country and accounts for why Nigerians daily diminish and are impoverished.

Take as an illustration, instead of telling their principals what the real issues are or encouraging them to keep promises that gave them victory at the polls, curtail the challenges confronting the people, and promote consensus politics, some government spokespersons encourage divisiveness, uphold autocratic tendencies, and endorse/promote media trial of political opponents.

In most cases, they become propagandists using radio, television and the internet as outlets to relentlessly false feed Nigerians.

Each time some of these spokespersons are faced with embarrassing facts about their principals, they fall back on data that is hardly objective, generating inferences that can never be described as explicit.

While finding solutions to the unwelcoming behaviours of government’s spokespersons will have far-reaching effects on both the public officials and the entire Nigerians, as it is laced with the capacity to engineer socioeconomic prosperity and propel the masses to work together for the greater good of the nation, it has become overwhelmingly urgent for government spokespersons, image makers and media assistants to understand that every decision they make requires a value judgment as different decisions bring different results

Jerome-Mario Utomi, the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy, SEJA, wrote from Lagos. He could be reached via; jeromeutomi@yahoo.com or 08032725374.

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