By Atedo Peterside
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
As part of their 14th Daily Trust Dialogue, the management of Daily Trust requested a presentation from me on “BEYOND RECESSION: TOWARDS A RESILIENT ECONOMY”. My focus will be on “Towards a resilient economy”, because virtually all the actions and policies that are required to help build a resilient economy are the exact same ones that will naturally take Nigeria well beyond today’s economic recession and unto a path of rapid and sustainable economic growth. If you aim for the skies you might end up at the ceiling. Likewise, if you do what is necessary to achieve rapid economic growth, then the chances are that you will at least attain modest growth, even where some plans fail.
My honest summation is that, even if we start today to embrace holistic, creative, sincere and reform-minded economic policies, the “animal spirits” that these measures unleash will harness the creative and entrepreneurial energies of our people once again and quickly place us firmly on the path of sustained rapid and inclusive growth.
The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) is doing some things right, such as the effort to curb overhead expenditures and to be more frugal than past administrations, but then they are also doing many things wrong. There is a reluctance to completely break from the past and embrace significant economic reforms, even when our present predicament clearly warrants same. If we do not act now or if we do not act quickly, we may find our economy needlessly mired in a hopeless situation where the citizenry might not witness an increase in income per capita (living standards) for 6 to 8 years.
The search for an economic policy direction must end now because we are facing an economic crisis. A crisis is an inflection point. It is that point when multiple outcomes become possible. When you superimpose our demanding political calendar, which requires Presidential elections in a little over two years, it becomes clear that 2017 represents the last full calendar year that this administration has within which it must embrace major economic reforms, if we expect to still attain many of the more palatable economic outcomes. It is no use arguing over who or what caused the economic recession (-2% growth) and high inflation rate (over 18.5% p.a.) that we are currently facing; far better to focus on what we need to do to get us out of this sorry state.
There are several units within the FGN that are carrying out meaningful but disparate actions that solve many fringe economic problems. Various actors appear to be working in “silos” solving fringe problems. What appears to be still missing is a bold, holistic and audacious effort to harmonize fiscal, monetary, exchange rate, trade and macro-prudential policies in a bold and concerted manner. Very few people want to take on the “big gorilla” in the room. They prefer to scratch around the fringes or work in silos, whilst almost accepting a 0.1% growth target as the achievement to celebrate because it might signify the end of a “so called technical recession”. That is why the impact of the FGN’s Economic Management Team is not being felt. A corollary of this proposition is that many people are simply minding their own business. Because they fear for their jobs, they are not interested in tackling their colleagues whose actions are negating and/or eliminating the most positive outcomes that the Government owes the electorate. Meanwhile, the populace is yearning for transformative economic changes.
I know that there are those who will criticize me for saying that the FGN’s economic policy direction remains unclear. My response to them is that the most significant economic reforms embraced so far by FGN came about rather reluctantly i.e. by FGN hanging on to an untenable position until it eventually disentangled itself or got overpowered by its own internal contradictions. We saw this with petrol prices and also the devaluation of the naira. When these “reforms” came, they arrived in the form of half-measures. Thus, we stopped short of both petrol price deregulation and opted instead for a limited price fix that was clearly unsustainable. We equally stopped short of adopting truly market-determined exchange rates and instead embraced a “fudge” that spewed widely divergent multiple exchange rates. Half measures typically bring some pain, but often fail (as in this case) to yield any lasting gain.
Determined to help force through the required soul-searching by FGN’s Economic Management Team, the rest of this paper will discuss ELEVEN major policy actions/inactions which the FGN and the ruling political party should consider. My approach is holistic. I am aware that some of these measures might require a bipartisan consensus. We must shake off the indolent mindset that leads us to believe that all Constitutional changes are taboo. Or the mindset that shirks any economic action that is out of the ordinary. Accordingly, I seek to draw attention to the following eleven items:-
1) The Central Bank of Nigeria should accept that it’s foreign exchange and demand management policies have failed. The more restrictions they have placed on forex repatriation the less likely it has become that badly needed forex inflows from portfolio investors, foreign direct investors and Nigerians will pick up. CBN has inadvertently created a siege mentality, thereby making privileged access to its forex allocations, which are reserved largely for the politically well-connected, the best investment game in town. Furthermore, the directive to banks to allocate 60% of forex to manufacturers who account for only 10% of GDP has exacerbated an already bad supply situation. 40% is much too small to accommodate the rest of the economy and so all other sectors have been crippled, including the Service sector which accounts for over 50% of GDP. This has unleashed panic thereby sending the parallel market to the high heavens. Forex inflows disappeared partly because of the uncertainty surrounding the ability to repatriate interest/dividends through an overly restrictive 40% window. There is nothing magical about 60% or 40%. It has no “scientific” basis. Meanwhile it has huge adverse distortionary implications on the supply side. The end result has been our mind-boggling and widely divergent multiple exchange rates which have spooked investors who have taken fright and also taken flight. Sadly, we have effectively “shot ourselves in the foot” by taking unsustainable actions that crippled both forex inflows and the Service sector, whilst favouring even those manufacturers who own “zombie” industries that are horribly import-dependent;
2) Linked to 1) above is the failure to reach some accommodation with Niger Delta militants. Three previous administrations (the preceding three) ended up brokering peace deals. A failure by FGN to broker a peace deal has cost the nation over $6 billion per annum. Dithering over amnesty payments promised by a previous administration was ill-advised because Government is a continuum. The FGN should urgently pursue high-powered negotiations which should be brokered by persons with a healthy track record in this activity and the ancillary pipeline protection business. In the longer term, I favour a constitutional amendment that reserves a one per cent royalty payment to immediate host communities on ALL mining and mineral producing activity (including limestone, oil, precious stones etc.). Communities will then be well incentivized to keep production activity going. This will give them some significant “skin in the game”, which is preferable to a long-term reliance on amnesty payments which constitute a moral hazard. A 13% derivation payment to a possibly “unaccountable and distant” State 14th Daily Trust Dialogue – Thursday 19th January 2017 2 Governor is not anywhere as effective as a 1% royalty payment to a host community;
3) We should simultaneously embark upon some asset sales which improve long-term efficiency and will yield foreign currency. I argued in my 01 October, 2016 published Letter to my Countrymen that the Federal Government share of the major Oil Joint Ventures (IOCs) should be sold down to 40% or no more than 49%. This would represent a replica of the highly successful Nigeria LNG (NLNG) model that provides a healthy dividend stream for the Government. If it is good for NLNG, then it should be good for the IOCs too. I envisage that the main obstacle here will be our value-destructive NNPC who might be reluctant to become a minority shareholder (40-49%). The secret behind NLNG’s success is that NNPC was “reduced” to taking a minority shareholding in this world-class investment project. Asset sales can yield $15-20 billion over the course of the next two years if planned carefully;
4) We urgently need to deregulate the entire downstream petroleum sector and also privatise NNPC’s three refineries + depots and pipelines and domestic gas;
5) Our civil/public service is still bloated, corrupt and inefficient and has become the excuse for a privileged 2% of the population to consume close to 60-70% of the annual budget via the recurrent expenditure vote. What is left over for the capital vote is insufficient to help finance social and physical infrastructure. Methinks mass redundancies are now inevitable, along with the implementation of an even bolder Orosanye Report because the nation is now stuck with a public service and legislators that we could only afford at $100 per barrel oil prices;
6) Less than 25% of our 36 States are economically viable. In the early 1960s, when Sir Ahmadu Bello wanted to build roads in the old Northern Region, he set aside salaries for a Works Minister (also a Parliamentarian) a Permanent Secretary and a lean Ministry of Works after which all the money set aside for roads was used in actually building roads. Today, overheads associated with 19 Commissioners and 19 Permanent Secretaries and their privileged workers consume virtually all the funds set aside for roads, leaving little or nothing left over for actually building State Government roads in most of the North. The obvious answer is political restructuring, as unpalatable as it may sound to some. For example, in terms of zonal overhead spending, we “expanded” the North from one regional government to 19 States and now need to “bring it down” to a more affordable 3 zones by retaining some overheads at the zonal level instead of spreading same over 19 states. We should keep an open mind towards this political restructuring argument because it is not even true that homogeneity within a State or zone necessarily guarantees peace. Somalia is homogenous and yet it is probably the closest thing there is today globally to a failed State. Conversely, there are communities, States and nations around the world which are heterogeneous, but which are living peacefully together;
7) To help overcome, the social and physical infrastructure deficit, we need to embark upon the restructuring canvassed in 5) and 6) above, whilst also embracing the private sector as the engine of growth and a capable partner/financier of infrastructural development. The Power and Transportation sectors are crying for more and not less privatisation. The logic of the power sector reforms was built around the adoption of cost-reflective tariffs, which we have since thrown out of the window. The transmission sector and gas supply difficulties are some of the other weak links in the power value chain;
8) A dysfunctional legal system is an impediment to the rapid growth of a modern economy. The Chief Justice of the Federation must “buy into” and spearhead radical reform of our legal system;
9) The anticorruption crusade will only complement the positive changes envisaged above if the Government itself respects the rule of law and obeys the Courts. We should err on the side of 14th Daily Trust Dialogue – Thursday 19th January 2017 3 extending the “benefit of the doubt” to accused persons whenever allegations are unsubstantiated or cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt. This need not signify the end of the anticorruption crusade because there will always be enough cases which can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It is better to let four people who might be guilty go free than to convict one innocent man. The latter drains all the energy out of the anticorruption crusade and also destroys business confidence;
10) Restoring business confidence should be the primary preoccupation guiding virtually every statement by public officers. This calls for a paradigm shift because the current preoccupation is for every Minister, Governor, Regulator or overzealous official to threaten investors with closure, bankruptcy, fines or seizure of their goods. Frightened businessmen (local or foreign) will not invest. We should be wooing investors instead of threatening them;
11) The Federal Government should immediately appoint directors to the boards of every regulatory agency. Keeping a Lone Wolf at the head of a regulatory agency is dangerous and therefore detrimental to business confidence. The important lesson from the recent Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria imbroglio is that a single rogue regulator can hold the entire system to ransom, help destroy business confidence and hamper economic growth. This only became possible because the checks and balances which our laws envisaged, through the appointment of Boards, Council members or Commissioners, were not in place.
Our economy is underperforming because, amongst other things, it is caught up in a low foreign exchange trap. Borrowing alone is not and can never be a panacea. Indeed, borrowing without instituting necessary and badly needed economic and structural reforms is akin to suicide. Those who are canvassing for more foreign debt simply because our debt/GDP ratio is low are overlooking the fact that our debt service ratios are already high. Our debt service ratios are high because our Tax/GDP ratio at 6% is exceedingly poor. It will require a few years of concerted action to move economic agents from the informal sector to the formal sector in a significant way before our tax/GDP ratio rises significantly. Relying on debt alone to get us out of the present low foreign exchange trap is therefore a high risk strategy. I consider it to be ill-advised. That is why I also emphasise 2) and 3) above. They help to improve the forex supply situation, without burdening our already high debt service ratios. If care is not taken, our deteriorating economy might take us on the “road to Venezuela or Zimbabwe”. Nigerians take pride in arguing that the Lord loves us and so he always intervenes by bringing us back from the precipice in the nick of time. I do not doubt that. What I truly believe is that the Lord intervenes through people. After the unbridled insults that were heaped on the Emir of Kano and a few others who dared to tell the Government the truth about the parlous state of our economy, the easiest path for me would have been to keep quiet or to simply blame speculators, detractors or past regimes. If I did that then the attack dogs would have won. NO, I am not about to abandon my right to free speech on account of some insincere sycophants. I speak because I want my country to improve. So help me God.
Atedo N A Peterside CON is the President & Founder of ANAP Foundation and is also the Chairman of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc and Cadbury Nigeria Plc Twitter @AtedoPeterside
Design Mistakes That Make Your House Look Cluttered
We’d all love our homes to have an inviting, well-put-together look, but there are a few common design mistakes that make a room feel messy and cluttered. Clearing clutter away seems an obvious first step towards a more polished look, but there are other simple decorating tricks that will bring order to your space, making it more open, organised and tidy.
Not having a dedicated drop zone
We all have that spot in our homes where we put our keys, and our bags, take off our shoes or just drop random things. It’s usually close to the front door or wherever you enter your house from. It’s where you unburden yourself of everything that’s in your hands when you get home. This space can, however, end up being a mess and it makes your house look untidy.
To combat this, allocate the most convenient space to be a drop zone, and put out storage baskets for items such as shoes. Add a table if there’s space and place pretty little containers on top of the table to hold keys, wallets and even letters.
No cable management
Everyone is guilty of having little to no cable management in certain parts of their home, especially in the living room where there are lots of electronics. Cable management isn’t the most fun thing to do in the world, but if they’re left open and exposed, they can be a massive eyesore.
Cables can be hidden in a number of ways, such as running them along the wall at floor level or through the ceiling or cupboards to keep them out of sight, but it requires expert knowledge to do so and can require extending cables and drilling holes.
Using oversized furniture
Nothing cramps up a space more than furniture that’s too big. You might want that great coffee table, but the truth is that it’s too big. And if you insist on it, it’s just going to make your home look overcrowded and uncomfortable.
If you already have the furniture, consider selling it online and using the money from that to purchase items that fit the room you need it for. Take measurements before you shop so that you don’t end up buying the incorrect size. Crowding a room with too many bits of furniture can also make it feel disorganised. Cut down on the amount needed by using multi-functional furniture, such as sturdy pouffes that can be used both for seating and as side tables, coffee tables with storage for cables and TV remotes, and mirrors with shelving attached to them.
Keep it fresh
“Unmade beds, dull floors, and a generally dirty space all contribute to making a house look disorganised. Get into a habit of tidying up your space. If you have family living with you, teaching them to clean up after themselves helps. Even better, save yourself time and stress by hiring a vetted, reliable, excellent and affordable cleaner to thoroughly clean your home on a weekly basis,” advises Awazi Angbalaga, Country Manager for a home-cleaning tech company, SweepSouth.
“A home that feels fresh and smells wonderful can instantly improve your mood and mental health, whereas a house with dirty carpets and unattended old furniture usually holds stale, musty odours that feel stifling. You might not even notice it because you’ve lived in the same space for so long but be aware of the way your home feels and smells the moment you step into it after having been outside in the fresh air,” she says. “your rooms can do with a good routine freshening up that includes dusting them from top to bottom, thoroughly cleaning the floors, opening up the windows and washing up dirty bedding. The good thing is that SweepSouth always has the right SweepStar to do the job on your behalf”
If you can’t throw out old furniture or carpets, try these clever tips from the SweepStars who clean Nigerian homes every week through SweepSouth’s service, to banish smells:
Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on carpets and couches, let it rest for an hour, then vacuum up every trace of powder
Put a ball of cotton wool that’s been dipped into a fresh-smelling essential oil, like lemon or eucalyptus, into the vacuum bag for a fresh smell every time you vacuum
Clean hardwood furniture with a polish made from two parts olive oil with one part lemon juice and use a soft cloth to rub it into the wood. You could also use almond oil with a few drops of lemon essential oil sprinkled in, dabbing a bit of the mixture onto a cloth, then rubbing gently into wooden surfaces
Overfilling open shelving
Open shelving is all the rage, and it looks lovely – when done right. It’s a common mistake to fill open shelves with books, picture frames and all the other objects you can’t find a home for, but this type of storage actually works best when it’s not overcrowded.
Resist the temptation to fill every inch of shelving, and rather space things out. Edit down what you’d like to display and leave open space between some of the items. Put your favourite decor items out, but bear in mind that too many decorative pieces will make it look cluttered.
The same rule applies when you’re styling a coffee or dining room tabletop. Give careful thought to what is visible in the room, especially if it’s a small space. Display only what you love, and make sure not to overfill the table. Group small items together in a shallow bowl or on a tray so that the arrangement stays tidy and keeps small objects from looking lost by elevating them on a stack of two or three books.
Not using vertical space
If you’ve ever mounted your TV on the wall, you will know how much of a difference it makes to space to not have your TV sitting on the cabinet or table. Making use of wall space – vertical space – isn’t good just for small areas, it frees up every room in the house. Put up shelves or hang things from your ceiling to get them off your countertops and floors.
For example, use wall-mounted shelves to arrange books and get rid of the bookshelf taking up some much-needed floor space. Using vertical space makes a huge difference in almost any room.
Keep these tips in mind when you’re decorating your space and your home will feel like a clutter-free oasis.
Redefining the Role of UPU for the Urhobo People
By Michael Owhoko, PhD
The Urhobo is among the first 10 major ethnic groups and the fifth largest in Nigeria, yet, its initial capacity to command considerable influence in the Nigerian polity was weakened by the lack of brotherliness, unity and trust among its people, unarguably, owing to the multiplicity of dialects, as depicted in the 24 kingdoms that make up the nationality.
In an attempt to eliminate this deficit, prevent disunity-induced regression, and raise sustained awareness for unity and trust across the divide, the founding Urhobo leaders came up with a philosophical slogan of Urhobo Ovuovo.
Specifically, the concept of Urhobo Ovuovo was informed by the need to foster unity as a strategy for driving the collective interests and aspirations of the Urhobo people, particularly within the Nigerian space. The concept, which simply means, Urhobo is one, became the major thrust of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), formerly Urhobo Brotherly Society at its formation, in 1931.
Its founding leaders recognized clearly from the outset that without unity among a people, unison and progress might be hampered, prompting them to identify and highlight the dangers of disunity to peace, growth and development in pursuit of the Urhobo vision.
On the strength of this, the leadership of UPU led by Chiefs Omorohwovo Okoro, Mukoro Mowoe and Thomas Erukeme made unity a catalyst and driver in their quest for progress in Urhobo land, as aptly captured in the union’s motto: Unity is Strength.
This was also reflected in the Aims and Objectives of the union’s Constitution, namely: “To foster the spirit of love, mutual understanding and brotherhood among Urhobo people.” Since then, unity has remained one of the guiding principles in the decision-making process at UPU.
All free-born of Urhobo, irrespective of place of birth and location, are automatic members of UPU. Branches of UPU exist in all corners of the globe, particularly in countries with a significant presence of Urhobos. From Europe to the United Kingdom, Australia, and from America to Asia and the Middle East, UPU is active. All positions held by UPU executives are held in trust for all Urhobos.
Thus, it came as a surprise to many sons and daughters of Urhobo ancestry about the alleged decision of the current national executive of UPU led by Chief Moses Taiga to endorse a particular candidate for the 2023 governorship election in Delta State. Regrettably, up till this moment, the executive is yet to deny the allegation. However, since silence means consent, it is assumed to be true, at least, for now.
By this position, the leadership of UPU is unwittingly laying a foundation for potential cracks in the body of the oldest socio-cultural organization in Nigeria. The endorsement negates and runs contrary to the vision of the founding fathers, as it is not only a recipe for disunity in Urhobo land but capable of encouraging the emergence of parallel bodies or equivalent associations.
The UPU could be likened to a father with members as children. Like children in a family, it is absurd for a father to overtly demonstrate preference or declare support or identify or show love for one over the others. This can permanently put a division in such a family.
Since all gubernatorial contenders in the 2023 general election in Delta State are of Urhobo descent, it was needless for the UPU to have expressed a preference for one candidate over the others, more so, when the outcome will ultimately produce an Urhobo son as a winner. Therefore, in line with the spirit of unity and progress for the Urhobo nation, UPU should have invited all candidates for a counselling meeting premised on peaceful electioneering conduct devoid of violence.
If it was a contest involving Urhobo sons and other ethnic groups, then UPU was obligatory to back its own, as demonstrated by the support given to Chief Daniel Okumagba when he contested as the governorship candidate of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1979. UPU also extended similar backing to Chief Felix Ibru when he ran for the same office under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1993.
It is, therefore, imperative for the national executives of the union to strive at all times not to deviate from the objective of UPU, but focus on issues that can deepen unity and progress in Urhobo land, particularly within the context of emerging challenges.
It must draw from the experience of the founding fathers, who at the time, were confronted with daunting challenges, but overcame them through sheer vision and action plans as they did with the establishment of Urhobo College in 1948 when UPU identified education as a major tool for boosting opportunities and aspirations. This also led to the sponsorship of Messrs Gabriel Ejaife and Ezekiel Igho to universities abroad during the intervening period.
Besides, Urhobo territories straddling other ethnic neighbours that were facing expropriation threats were all reclaimed and regrouped within Urhobo geographical boundaries. Some of these cases involved litigation and these were won and recovered with the support of UPU. There was no true son and daughter of Urhobo who was not proud of these accomplished milestones then.
Even the translation of the Holy Bible into the Urhobo language was part of efforts to advance and strengthen Urhobo unity, which became a source of pride, as it went a long way in defining the Urhobo personality.
The Urhobo nation cannot be insulated from current dynamics and challenges in Nigeria. UPU must therefore be proactive and respond to these vulnerabilities, particularly those that can potentially hinder development in Urhobo land.
Insecurity is currently a threat. Fulani herdsmen have become a menace in Urhobo forests and savannas, stalling farming business and creating fear across the land through criminal activities. This is also responsible for the reluctance of Urhobos to come home to invest. While efforts by UPU in this regard must be acknowledged, it should take further steps through concrete action plans to nip this criminality in the bud. Urhobo Security Network (USN) and other surveillance groups should be strengthened and equipped to provide intelligence and sundry activities.
Urhobo wealth is outside Urhobo land, partly because of deve (development fees). UPU should discourage youth from harassing and collecting these levies from potential investors and developers. Monarchs collaborating with youth in this shameful act should be sanctioned. If five per cent of Urhobo wealth can be attracted home for investment, jobs will be available for youth.
Also, UPU should constitute Economic Advisory Council to hold Urhobo Economic Summit annually aimed at identifying opportunities that will promote empowerment and stimulate development in Urhobo land.
The future is science and technology. While the proposed Mukoro Mowoe University is commendable, it should be STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Currently, there is under-admission of Urhobo sons and daughters to Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) and Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE). UPU should sensitize and encourage all secondary schools in Urhobo land to predominantly pattern their syllabus after science to enable them to take advantage of these opportunities.
Also, there is a dearth of qualified artisans in Urhobo land. UPU should establish technical schools similar to the former Sapele Technical College or Atamakolomi Trade School, where Urhobo youth can acquire vocational skills in carpentry, electricals, automobile engineering, welding, bricklaying, tiling, painting, tailoring, and other artistry works.
Of note is the Urhobo Historical Society (UHS) which was set up to study, research and document Urhobo history and culture, just as the Urhobo Studies Association (USA) was established to promote scholarships pertaining to Urhobo language, literature and culture. UPU should support these institutions, particularly the USA to drive the study of Urhobo language and literature in universities up to the doctorate level.
Urhobo and her immediate neighbours have common socio-economic challenges and aspirations but are unable to work in unison for this purpose due to the trust gap engendered by domination fear. This was one of the reasons the Itsekiri opposed the creation of Delta State from the old Delta Province with Warri as capital. Rather than demonstrate leadership morality, Ibrahim Babangida took advantage of the confusion to appease his wife and in-laws, obviously due to oil benefits, by merging the Anioma region, which was hitherto under Benin Province, with Delta Province, and also made Asaba, an obviously unsuitable location, as capital. The Anioma region should have rightly been made part of Edo State, not Delta. UPU should therefore build bridges across its immediate neighbours to restore confidence.
It is therefore imperative that the current roles of UPU should be redefined within these contexts, to reposition Urhobo for the emerging challenges of this 21st century.
Dr Mike Owhoko, Lagos-based journalist and author, can be reached at www.mikeowhoko.com.
Ajaja: Good Governance and Development
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
In recent times, the debate on the interrelatedness of equity, justice, peace and development is among the most presently discussed topics on the surface of the earth.
The reason for this unending debate stems from the time-honoured belief that without equity and justice, there will be no peace. And without peace, no society, group or nation should contemplate development.
Accordingly, for any programme/action to be typified as development-based/focused, development practitioners believe that such programme progress should entail an all-encompassing improvement, a process that builds on itself and involves both individuals and social change.
It requires growth and structural change, with some measures of distributive equity, modernization in social and cultural attitudes, a degree of political transformation and stability, an improvement in health and education so that population growth stabilizes, and an increase in urban living and employment.
As background to this piece, it is public knowledge that throughout the early decades, the world paid little attention to what constitutes sustainable development. Such conversation, however, gained global prominence via the United Nations (UN)’s introduction, adoption and pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which lasted between the year 2000 and 2015 and was among other intentions aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger as well as achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health among others.
Without going into specific concepts or approaches contained in the performance index of the programme, it is evident that the majority of the countries, including Nigeria performed below average.
It was this reality and other related concerns that conjoined to bring about the 2030 sustainable agenda, a UN initiative and successor programme to the MDGs, with a collection of 17 global goals formulated among other aims to promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty and has at its centre, partnership and collaboration, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society.
Certainly, Nigeria is plagued with development challenges such as widespread poverty, insecurity, corruption, gross injustice and ethnic politics and is in dire need of attention from interventionist organizations (private and civil society organizations) as demanded by the agenda.
However, in view of this legion of challenges bedevilling the nation, the question may be asked: why is this piece fixated with discussing a topic Ajaja: Good Governance and Development? Why is it concerned with a personality, in the person of Smart Madu Ajaja, a registered nurse, entrepreneur, writer, public speaker, political commentator, Rasta, broadcaster, and a human and environmental rights activist with a deep interest in and passion for socioeconomic, civil, and criminal and environmental justice? Why is it coming at this critical time when Nigeria as a country is going through the pangs of insecurity in addition to the aforementioned developmental challenges in the country? And in the period when the nation recently slipped into its worst economic decline in almost four decades? Why is it not centred on calling interventionists and development-focused organizations to rescue Nigeria?
Essentially, aside from running an organization code-named Open Nigeria, a group strictly about Nigeria, not about north or south or about Christians and Muslims, and focuses on equity, justice, peace and development, one possible explanation for the above questions is that this author has realized with satisfaction that Smart Ajaja, going by his actions and inactions not only represent different things to different people, rather, his socio-political ideology if adopted, and applied to Nigeria’s nagging challenges, will act as a formidable tool for achieving Nigeria of our dream anchored on good governance and development.
Take, as an illustration, to some, he is a fearless, hyper-patriotic, courageous, passionate and uncompromising no-nonsense personality and social crusader whose strong voice has continually echoed and re-echoed over the years in matters of socioeconomic justice, good political representation, accountable leadership and politics generally in Nigeria and beyond. To others, he embodies (and rightly so) the quintessential gentleman: humble, respectful, sympathetic, empathetic, generous and above all, a man with love for all mankind regardless of tribe or creed, a man who also has the fear of God eternally engraved in a large warm heart.
Smart Madu Ajaja is indeed all of the above and more and even to any casual watcher or associate. The thing that definitely and usually stands out about him is his seemingly divine inclination and passion for selfless service, compassion for humanity, and peace through justice. This iconic Abavo-Delta State-born US-based Nigerian human and environmental rights activist has demonstrated these strong characters all his life. He is a good governance and development advocate.
An accomplished professional nurse, Smart Ajaja, now an Independent Case Management Consultant with a variety of healthcare providers in Texas has vast experience in general, orthopaedic, industrial, correctional, oncology, paediatric and geriatric nursing with licensure in three countries and has worked in elite hospitals such as the Houston Texas-based MD Anderson Cancer Hospital, and Corporate Healthcare institutions in countries including, Nigeria, South Africa and the United States.
As an inventor, Smart Madu Ajaja designed and deployed an unpatented dynamic immobilizer for the management of Volkmann’s Ischemic Contracture, an orthopaedic condition that arises from complicated cases of fractured dislocation of the elbow resulting in reduced blood supply to the muscles needed for flexion and extension of the elbow joint as the head of the Orthopaedic unit at the Bethal Hospital, Bethal in Mpumalanga Province of South Africa.
As an entrepreneur, he is the founder and Managing Director of Allied Vision Group LLC, a company with a speciality in textbook procurement, sales, and distribution within the United States and around the world.
As a writer endowed with analytical thinking and creative writing, Smart Madu Ajaja has authored tons of breath-taking essays and articles on local, state and national issues bordering on leadership, corruption and socioeconomic injustice on Nigeria’s mainstream media and on social media, especially on Facebook, bringing to the attention of his global audience credible information on the challenges of corruption in Nigeria and how it has negatively impacted the people’s lives and their mindsets and also proffering solutions on the ways out of it and how to create access to opportunities for all so there will no longer be the need for the people to be struggling in the midst of Nigeria’s plenty.
As a philanthropist, Smart Madu Ajaja co-founded the Austin And Grace Foundation as a platform to provide assistance through scholarships to indigent students of all socioeconomic stratifications in Nigeria in his effort to inspire the energy to defeat ignorance through literacy from which many unannounced Nigerians have benefited to date.
As a broadcaster, Smart Madu Ajaja anchors two radio shows including Nigeria Now and Nurses Arise on Nightingale Radio Worldwide broadcasting Live @8pm and 7 am respectively on Saturdays and Mondays.
He is also a founding member and leader at Anioma Voice Worldwide Foundation (inc), a non-partisan Delta North Socio-cultural organization where he also has been deploying his resources and funds in concert with others for the group’s charitable and empowerment efforts for all Anioma people.
Smart Ajaja, a rare gem, is a blend of charisma, doggedness, courage, honesty, kindness, compassion, transparency, accountability, simplicity, humility, sensitivity, sensibility, responsibility and incredible intelligence that we cannot afford to ignore without tapping into the eminent qualities he possesses especially at this difficult time of our nation’s history.
His quest for selfless service to Nigeria inspired him to a novel and stellar issue-driven senatorial race in the 2019 election to represent Delta North senatorial District at the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the platform of the African Action Congress (AAC), now and the fastest-growing political party in Nigeria.
Smart Madu Ajaja, ever-restless and not satisfied with the way Nigeria and Nigerians are locked down with no access to opportunities, invented a novel common sense all-encompassing politico-philosophical ideology that he code-named Open Nigeria, which he believes would unlock the potentials of Nigeria for all Nigerians and put the country on the path to genuine nationhood and greatness.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via email@example.com/08032725374
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