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Restructuring; Tinubu and the Rest of Us

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bola ahmed tinubu

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

In the words of a British author and journalist George Orwell: “We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield 

Certainly, if there is any new statement in Nigeria’s political history that captures the above feelings, spreads out the basic reasons for the ceaseless call for the nation’s restructuring, provides answers to why the existing system is currently unacceptable, challenges the fundamental assumptions, offers a road map for restoring the health and vitality of Nigerian democracy and proposes a strategy for the re-introduction of true fiscal federalism to its proper position in the country,  it is the recent presentation by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Executive Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC),

Speaking on the topic; Time to restructure is now, at the 3rd Annual Abiola Ajimobi Roundtable, Tinubu among other things stated that; the current relationship between the police and the people needs such reform so that the police may help better answer the security challenges we now face. …..In fact, it is long overdue. This important change requires more funds in state hands, less in federal. Other items such as stamp duties for financial transactions, tourism, and the incorporation of businesses should also occur at the state level and be removed from the federal charge.

Perhaps the single most important factor in economic development is power generation. States currently are shut out from this vital sector even though the nation suffers a paucity of power. States must be allowed to engage in power generation as long as their efforts are consistent with and do not undermine federal labours in this sector. If we begin these fundamental changes, then our states will become stronger, more able catalysts of economic development. By instituting true federalism, we open the door not only to prosperity but to greater democracy and openness throughout Nigeria. This will help bring peace and tranquillity where there is now tension and uncertainty about the pathway our nation is on. He concluded.

Obviously, It is not hard to know that Tinubu’s comment amply and perfectly demonstrates the way to go. it signposts a solid reality that knocks false belief about restructuring paddled for a very long period of time. From the content of his presentation, it’s glaring that ‘a new spirit is rising among us and we must trace its movement and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around’.

This fact notwithstanding, the call did face an array of differing reactions.

While characterizing it as well-meaning, some during a conversation observed that it is about taking power away from the centre. It is about efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of government. It is about empowering states and governors to take a more active role in governance.

Others, contrary to expectation, went Biblical in their reaction describing the call as not just a new Wine in an old Wineskin but an act of patching up an old coat with a piece of new cloth. Referring to a parable found at Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22 and Luke 5:33-39 which cautions that no man should put new wine into old bottles, else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilt and the bottles shall perish. Or, should anyone use a piece of new cloth to patch up an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and make an even bigger hole in the coat?

The rest viewed it as another political gimmick, a gospel without the truth and a dangerous fiction constructed around 2023. In their judgment, the latest calls are in some ways similar to the 2015 experience where President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressive Congress (APC) in their campaign manifesto, promised to “Initiate action to amend the Nigerian Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit.” But never did.

However, as a fellow who will not spill his guts easily but don’t hide things either, the question may be asked; why did this piece share this array of comments?

One possible answer to the questions is that it exposes as human beings how much simpler it is to place blames or criticize than to generate breakthrough ideas. This torrent of negative responses came even when it is obvious that we are all responsible for the decisions that our country makes. ‘We have a National Assembly, an independent judiciary. We have free speech. We have checks and balances. We are a nation of laws’. Yet; how much of these channels have we used in the past to make such demands? Have we forgotten that no matter how beautiful a policy appears, no matter how strong an institution tends to be, we always have deconstructionists that can undermine it?

For emphasis, apart from enjoying the constitutional backing as enshrined in the nations’ 1999 constitution (as amended), to express his opinion, Bola Tinubu by this call, has demonstrated the most dynamic and cohesive action expected of a leader of his class to earn a higher height of respect. And if adhered to, it will assist the country gain significant ground needed to tackle its development challenges, particularly at the state and local government levels.

He is by no means alone in this call. It is factually documented that well foresighted Nigerians have in the past compared the need for restructuring with and likened it to, the indispensability and inseparability of the blood from the body. The nation, they argued, is currently structured and standing in an inverted pyramid shape with more power concentrated at the top and the base not formidable enough making collapse inevitable if urgent and fundamental steps are not taken. This state of our polity as it stands urgently needs to be revisited and possibly reversed.

No matter how long it will take us to live in denial; devolution of power at the centre has become inevitable. The padding of the exclusive list with activities has made ‘Abuja’ appear as a general surrounded by many lieutenants instead of the order way round. The truth is that for true federalism to be practised; there is an urgent need for the nation to make the centre less attractive and federating states strengthened with greater autonomy.

To catalyze this process, there is also the need to recognize the already existing ‘agreement’ among Nigerians with critical minds; that President Buhari was elected by Nigerians and he is the symbol of the sovereign many talked about. And therefore, cannot be asked to convoke a Sovereign National Conference for the purpose of restructuring Nigeria. Such demand could be likened to asking him to abdicate the high office of the presidency of Nigeria, that is, to surrender his powers, office to a group of elected or selected persons who now determine the tenor of the federation.

From this reality, it is obvious that only the federal legislators can deliver us from this predicament. And it will be rewarding for our nationhood and democracy if the likes of Bola Tinubu use their good offices to lobby the APC dominated National Assembly for this purpose.

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

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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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New Global Tax Rules to Address Imbalances in Africa’s Tax Revenue

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Africa's Tax Revenue

By Denny Da Silva

One hundred and thirty-six of the 140 members of the OECD G20 Inclusive Framework, including South Africa, have agreed on a new set of global tax rules that will reform the world’s tax system.

Notably, two African countries that are members of the Inclusive Framework have not yet joined the agreement – Kenya and Nigeria.

The two-pillar system will be presented to the G20 Leaders’ Summit at the end of October 2021. It will result in a reallocation of taxing rights from resident to source countries of certain multinational enterprises (MNEs), if thresholds are met, in addition to a 15 per cent global minimum tax rate for certain organizations, implemented from 2023. The agreement aims to redress global tax revenue imbalances and is set to benefit developing economies in Africa.

According to African policymakers, a multilateral approach to tax collection has numerous benefits for the continent. Smaller economies like those in Africa are more reliant on business income tax than larger economies.

The African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) previously noted that 16 per cent of total tax revenue in African countries is from corporate tax, compared to 9 per cent in OECD countries.

African countries have increased their revenue collection methods and have implemented punitive measures to clamp down on tax avoidance measures because the revenue collected is of the utmost importance to the stability of their economies. But current tax rules have meant that African countries could not collect tax revenue from multinationals, even if they were operating profitably in their countries.

The OECD’s Pillar One changes enable market jurisdictions to charge income tax on a portion of the profits of large multinational companies operating within their borders. It will reallocate taxing rights from their resident countries to markets where they conduct business and generate profits, regardless of their physical presence in that country.

Pillar One will apply to MNEs with sales over €20 billion and that generate a net profit above 10 per cent (profit before tax/turnover). Amount A has been confirmed at 25 per cent of an MNE’s residual profit (i.e. profit in excess of 10 per cent of revenue) and will be allocated to market jurisdictions with sufficient nexus using a revenue-based allocation key – being a revenue of at least €1 million from that jurisdiction (or at least €250,000 for jurisdictions with a GDP of less than €40 billion).

No agreement has yet been reached on the implementation and design of Amount B, which intends to simplify the arm’s length principle for baseline marketing and distribution activities, but the intention is for this to be completed in 2022.

Pillar Two proposes a new network of rules that will reallocate taxing rights according to a new global minimum tax regime of 15 per cent – aimed at ensuring a minimum effective net tax rate across all jurisdictions. It will apply to all enterprises generating revenue above €750 million. Model rules for bringing Pillar Two into domestic legislation will be introduced in 2022 and become effective in 2023.

On the African front, ATAF submitted proposals to the OECD on the new agreement and announced in October 2021 that many of its proposals were incorporated into Pillar One, including broadening the agreement to incorporate all sectors but excluding the extractives sector. ATAF stated that resource-rich African countries price their minerals on their “inherent characteristics” and not on “market intangibles”, and as such, taxing rights should go to the resource-producing country.

ATAF further noted that their request for greater simplification of some of the rules was also incorporated. Specifically, the nexus threshold was reduced to €1 million, down from €5 million, with a lower threshold of €250 000 for smaller jurisdictions with GDPs lower than €40 billion and no “plus factors.” ATAF also secured an elective binding dispute resolution mechanism, as opposed to the existing mandatory dispute resolution process, for eligible developing countries.

ATAF was also pleased that the Subject to Tax Rule (STTR) would be a minimum standard that developing countries can require to be included in bilateral tax treaties with Inclusive Framework members and that the STTR would cover interest, royalties, and a defined set of other payments.

However, there was disappointment that the agreement only allocates 25 per cent of the residual profit to market jurisdictions under Amount A – ATAF had advocated for this to be 35 per cent.

African countries now have until 2023 to implement the new tax rules, navigating difficulties with regard to tax implementation due to capacity challenges and issues with how the rules will impact countries that are not members of the Inclusive Framework.

However, the OECD has stated it will ensure the rules can be effectively and efficiently administered and that they will offer comprehensive capacity-building support to countries that need it.

Overall, the global tax changes are good news for the continent and are expected to result in increased tax revenue for African countries at a time when capital is direly needed for post-pandemic recovery.

Denny Da Silva is the Associate Director of Tax at Baker McKenzie, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Delta 2023: Ibori, Okowa and Mulade’s Leadership Hypothesis

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Sheriff Mulade

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

The latest honour bestowed a few days ago on the Delta State Governor, Mr Ifeanyi Okowa, as the Best Performing Governor of the Year in Infrastructural Development in Nigeria has finally said what has been on the minds of Deltans.

Separate from affirming the title of ‘Road Master’ Deltans code-named the Governor, the award which was presented to Governor Okowa at the Event Centre, Asaba, during the opening ceremony of the 19th International Civil Engineering Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Institution which has its theme as Civil Infrastructure Development: Chal­lenges and Prospects Under Pandemic Situ­ations, more than anything else amplified the belief that Okowa is laced with attributes of a clear thinker as outlined by Justin Merkins in his book titled the Executive Intelligence.

To copiously quote Merkins, he said in parts; there are clear thinkers, muddled thinkers and people that fall in between. Clear thinks -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.

This voiced position about the Governor’s performance canvassed by the piece is, and analysis of his scorecard in the past six years of his administration as the governor of the oil-rich Delta State and have been dutifully captured in my previous interventions.

Indeed, while this piece also observes that there exists for the governor, room for improvement in order to finish strong as he desires, I will make a detour to observe/underline that separate from the award bestowed on Governor Okowa, this present intervention is largely a continuation/function of my recent conversation with Comrade Mulade Sheriff, Country Director, Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, (CEPEJ).

While some of the lessons of that conversation have been shared in my analysis in previous interventions, this particular angle remained untouched but is now relevant to the present discourse.

Adding context to the discourse, Mulade in that report among other concerns, argued that as the nation races towards 2023, there exists an urgent imperative in the state (Delta) for mind restructuring as it relates to the election of leaders.

While admitting that experience in public leadership is important particularly as leadership is both nature and nurture, he, however, urged Deltans to imbibe a new attitude that dwells less on public leadership experience as a prerequisite for determining who will be the next governor of the state, as evidence abounds that most of the so-called experienced public office holders occupied such position in the past without leaving any positive impact or stamp their legacies on the sand of time.

To further buttress his claim as well as strengthen his argument that one can actually perform superlatively as a governor without necessarily capped with previous public leadership experience, he pointed to the fact that the likes of James Onanefe Ibori had no record of previous public leadership experience before assuming the position of governor of the state in May 1999. Yet, his record of sterling achievements and the echo of the regime keeps reverberating because of the foundation he laid and his fundamental style of governance that was an empowerment whirlwind.

Of course, Mulade may be right! And again, looking at a report titled the Views From Delta State authored by Eromo Egbejule, a Nigerian writer and journalist and published December 9, 2016, by the Africa Research Institute, it becomes obvious that Mulade is not alone in this line of thinking.

Egbejule in that report noted in parts; under Ibori, things were far from perfect, but progress was at least visible. He built bridges to hitherto inaccessible towns such as Omadino and Bomadi, across the Forçados River; and scores of roads were constructed across the state’s three senatorial districts. The education sector also benefited from the state government’s investments in the early 2000s.

A number of higher institutions were built: three polytechnics, a college of physical education and a navy school. Medical students at Delta State University also benefited from a new teaching hospital, albeit in the governor’s hometown.

Ibori’s greatest impact was in the sports sector. An indoor sports complex was constructed in the state capital Asaba. Oghara got a brand-new stadium, along with a total transformation from a glorified village to a mini-city. Sapele, Oleh, Ughelli and other towns also got new stadiums or upgrades to existing facilities. Perhaps it was a ploy to serialise stealing or a genuine desire to spread development across the state – or both. Either way, it worked brilliantly.

There was an active youth development programme. There were clinics for referees, scholarships for athletes and early release of funds was encouraged to allow athletes the necessary time to prepare properly.

Delta State topped the medals table at the National Sports Festival in 2000, 2004 and 2006, and came second in 2002. In 2002 and 2006, it hosted the African Women Cup of Nations Championship (as it is now known). Ibori was revered for bringing international football to the state, the report concluded.

Thus, as the build-up to political activities for the Delta 2023 governorship race gradually gathers momentum, it is important in my view that the state goes for someone with leadership qualities and sterling integrity to succeed Governor Okowa from May 29, 2023.

The state needs a leader that will sustain Okowa’s achievements and engineer development in the state without excess socioeconomic hardship and environmental degradation, but in a way that both protects the rights and opportunities of coming generations and contributes to compatible approaches.

A leader that will bring about the infusion of human rights principles of participation, accountability, transparency and non-discrimination towards the attainment of equity and justice in development initiatives in the state in a particular way and process that allows the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, and all fundamental freedoms, while expanding the capabilities and choices of the individual.

Once more, while it is obvious that Deltans experienced a period of economic growth under Ibori, Emmanuel Udughan and Okowa’s administrations, the likes of which most of the states in the federation had never before seen, I, however, hold the opinion that in 2023, the state will need as a state governor someone that will provide an answer to the question as to what exactly impedes the development of the Niger Delta/ Coastal areas and other rural communities of the state.

Find out why the legislative framework guiding the region is not providing a strong source of remedy for individuals and communities negatively affected by oil exploration and production in the coastal communities. Determine why it is not effective and enforceable; why the framework is not acting as a legal solution to the issues of oil-related violations.

Finally, although Governor Okowa has stated in clear terms that only God knows who will succeed him, it is, however, important for Deltans to pray and work for an authentic leader who will demonstrate a passion for his purpose, practice his values consistently and lead with his heart as well as his head.

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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