I recently wrote a brief piece for Democracy in Africa, reflecting on the discussions during the first Women in Government and Politics Conference for Africa, held at Central Hall in Westminster, London. The event was put together by the Winihin Jemide Series and I facilitated one of the panel discussions. Find the excerpt below:
African women have made remarkable strides in positions of leadership and authority across the continent. This has been especially evident with the wave of democratization over the past two decades. Women now occupy presidential seats in Liberia and Malawi, foreign ministry portfolios in Rwanda, Kenya and Somalia, the leadership of the African Union and many other positions hitherto regarded as the exclusive domain of men. It is in order to take stock of the progress made so far, the existing challenges remaining and how to overcome them that the first Women in Government and Politics Conference for Africa, held at Central Hall in Westminster, London was put together by the Winihin Jemide Series
The two-day conference involved female delegates in influential leadership positions such as parliamentarians, cabinet members, academics and activists. They liberally shared their views, their experiences on how they were able to surmount obstacles to get to where they are today, and their suggestions on moving forward. The Nigerian Minister for Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke while delivering a keynote address, noted that 11 African countries have reached the 30% benchmark of female representation in leadership positions through quotas and parity schemes. In fact, countries like Nigeria had surpassed this average, she reminded the audience. The Minister however reiterated the need for women to be proactive in supporting one another….
Read the rest of the article on the Democracy in Africa website.
In August this year, I came across Roy Agyemang’s article in the Guardian, on the just concluded elections in Zimbabwe. I found his perspective quite different from the usual Mugabe-is-the-devil refrain in the media. Eventually I found myself on the website for a documentary he directed, titled: “Mugabe: Villain or Hero?” The subject matter aroused my interest especially when I realised that film screenings were still going on around the UK.
I got in touch with the film maker to arrange for a screening in Oxford. Apparently, other student-led associations were interested in the documentary. So, on Thursday 31st October, the film was screened by the Oxford Afro-Caribbean Society. The documentary was as informative, interesting and provocative as I imagined it would be.
The film seems to be a serendipity of sorts because the original goal was, in Agyemang’s words: to “get into Zimbabwe, spend three months, interview Mugabe and leave”. However three months quickly became three years as getting access to the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was not a walk in the park. It ended up chronicling the three-year journey of the film maker and his crew in the country towards securing the interview. Of course spending that amount of time in the country meant they witnessed the politicking, electioneering campaign, and violence of the 2008 elections, the hyper inflation and economic crisis, the effects of the international sanctions, in addition to finally having first-hand access to Mugabe.
What I found particularly fascinating is how the film’s main goal seemed to evolve the longer Agyemang and his film crew stayed in Zimbabwe. For the film maker, he became more determined to paint a different picture of the country and the personality of Mugabe, rather than what he considers an inaccurate portrayal by the international media.
Even during the Q&A session after the film, Agyemang reiterated that his main objective was to show a different side to Mugabe and his stewardship over Zimbabwe. He emphasised his motivation with such infectious determination bordering on passion. His British-Ghanaian identity arguably, lends his voice on this issue significant credibility. In fact, his “British accent” initially impeded access to Mugabe because the Octogenarian leader’s aides suspected him to be a spy. He had to undergo a makeover over of sorts, to assume a more African “Roy from Ghana” identity.
Many, particularly those with little knowledge of Zimbabwe will find the film informative. For instance, after independence in 1980, Mugabe appointed some of his former white adversaries to his cabinet, and the country became a model of an interracial society. For that, he was called “The Gandhi of Africa”, was compared to mother Theresa, was nominated for a Nobel Prize, and was awarded an honorary Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.
Mugabe however became a villain, the “Black Hitler”, with the controversial land reforms in 2000 in which white-owned farms were transferred to black Zimbabweans. True to the film’s objective of going against the grain in the narrative on Zimbabwe, the film shows how the Blair government’s decision to renege on the Lancaster House agreement between Zimbabwe and Britain meant to oversee this land reform, catalysed Mugabe’s forceful seizure of land from white farmers, and other nationalisation policies. The film focuses on the international politics behind the sanctions.
The viewer also glimpses into Mugabe’s personality. Far from a stiff, horned and unapproachable autocrat, the film shows him as a lucid and witty person in touch with his people. In one scene, Mugabe is seen being coached by very young Zimbabweans on an engaging electoral campaign strategy.
Certainly, Mugabe is a leader who has mastered the art of tapping into a strong anti-neocolonialist sentiment among his people. It is obvious that among his supporters in the country is a fervent, almost messianic belief in Mugabe’s ability to secure “Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans” against foreign domination. One thing I noticed here is that this anti-neocolonialist sentiment, along with the crippling effect of the sanctions, and Mugabe’s demonisation in the international media may have inadvertently forged a strong sense of national identity among Zimbabweans. Rightly or wrongly, such national consciousness has conspicuously eluded many other African countries.
Notwithstanding, the viewer is taken on a brief tour of the darker side of Mugabe’s stewardship. One such case is the Gukurahundi, the brutal suppression of civilians in the 1980s by the government’s North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade. Thousands were executed whilst Mugabe was simultaneously receiving numerous international accolades for how the crisis was managed. The country’s severe economic crisis in 2007 with hyper inflation at over 150,000% and the crippling effects of international sanctions on the country’s ordinary people are also liberally shown.
An observation was made during the Q&A session which I agree with. The perspective of Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ought to have been included in the documentary for greater balance. Agyemang responded that they tried unsuccessfully, to reach out to Tsvangirai.
I personally would have liked to see more on the Chinese presence in the country. This is because development assistance from China has been the government’s lifeline since Mugabe’s fallout with Western countries. I also would’ve liked to see more on the fractionalisation and the succession crisis within Mugabe’s party, the ZANU-PF. In response to my observations, the film maker assured that these areas would be covered in a follow-up documentary.
Overall, the film delivers on its main objectives of providing an alternative view of Robert Mugabe and of widening the debate about him. Regardless of what position one takes on Mugabe, alternative narratives always provide a refreshing take on things. It’s a provocative and timely documentary which is generating a lot of interest. So far there has been screenings at Harvard University, New York University and the British Film Institute to mention a few locations. Screenings are still going on until the film is released on DVD and online early next year.
The infographic below illustrates vividly, the disparity between salaries of parliamentarians and average incomes in a select number of countries.
Credit goes to: Visualizing Impact
Though Nigeria isn’t one of the countries sampled, one of the hot burning issues in Nigerian public discourse in recent times is legistators’ jumbo pay. A report by The Economist ranked Nigerian MPs as the highest paid in the world, not in terms of the amount actually received, but as a multiple of GDP per capita. Each Nigerian MP receives about $189,000 per annum as basic salary which is 116 times the average income per person in the country.
Reports and op-eds within local Nigerian media have focused on the issue extensively. Former Education Minister and World Bank Vice President for the Africa region, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili recently accused the National Assembly of consuming over N1.1trn ($6.4bn) since 2005. Running the National Assembly consumes 3% of the annual budget, although this also includes administrative costs.
More recently, a coalition of civil society and youth movements led a protest at the National Assembly in Abuja demanding for transparency in information on how much exactly, legislators earn.
Interestingly, Nigerian or Kenyan legislators are not the highest paid in the world. Australian MPs earn $201,200 per annum. Obviously, little fuss would be made about the size of these African MPs’ remuneration packages if people felt they were getting value for money paid. Alas!
The London-based think tank, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, otherwise known as Chatham House recently published a report titled “Nigeria’s Criminal Crude: International Options to Combat the Export of Oil”. The report analyses the international dimensions of Nigerian crude oil theft and explores what the international community could do about it.
A summary of some of the findings include:
- “Nigerian crude oil is being stolen on an industrial scale. Nigeria lost at least 100,000 barrels of oil per day, around 5% of total output, in the first quarter of 2013 to theft from its onshore and swamp operations alone. Some of what is stolen is exported. Proceeds are laundered through world financial centres and used to buy assets in and outside Nigeria, polluting markets and financial institutions overseas, and creating reputational, political and legal hazards. It could also compromise parts of the legitimate oil business.
- Officials outside Nigeria are aware that the problem exists, and occasionally show some interest at high policy levels. But Nigeria’s trade and diplomatic partners have taken no real action, and no stakeholder group inside the country has a record of sustained and serious engagement with the issue. The resulting lack of good intelligence means international actors cannot fully assess whether Nigerian oil theft harms their interests.
- Nigeria’s dynamic, overcrowded political economy drives competition for looted resources. Poor governance has encouraged violent opportunism around oil and opened doors for organized crime. Because Nigeria is the world’s 13th largest oil producer – exports often topped two million barrels per day in 2012 – high rents are up for grabs.”
The report recommends the following four first steps for building a cross-border campaign against Nigerian oil theft:
- “Nigeria and its prospective partners should prioritize the gathering, analysis and sharing of intelligence.
- Nigeria should consider taking other steps to build the confidence of partners.
- Other states should begin cleaning up parts of the trade they know are being conducted within their borders.
- Nigeria should articulate its own multi-point, multi-partner strategy for addressing oil theft.”
The report rightly places a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the Nigerian authorities to take the lead in combating this illegality and plunder. After all, the theft takes place within the country’s shores with the active connivance of Nigerian actors, before the oil is shipped off elsewhere.
The onus clearly lies on the Nigerian government to demonstrate political will in curbing the flow of stolen crude from the source. It has so far embarked on an effective campaign for the international community to regard stolen crude oil as “blood oil”, in the same manner as “blood diamonds” are treated. Yet the root source has to be plugged. At a Chatham House meeting a few months ago, I made the same point to (Mrs.) Erelu Olusola Obada, the Nigerian Defense minister when she requested in her presentation, for the international community’s assistance in rejecting stolen Nigerian crude oil (the Minister was relieved of her appointment along with 8 others in a cabinet reshuffle earlier this month). I pointed out that there has been no major prosecution within Nigeria, of those involved in this criminal enterprise and their alleged collaborators in the oil companies, the army and in other government institutions. The responsibility lies squarely on the country to block the source of stolen crude within its shores.
The authorities need to show resolve, go beyond rhetoric and put action to words. To start with, known criminals need to be put behind bars for a long time. Though the security agencies may be under-equipped and due for reform, they are not thoroughly incompetent. Once a few high profile arrests of the middle men, financiers and “godfathers” are made and convictions are secured, then the international community will be assured of Nigeria’s readiness to tackle oil theft and its criminal networks.
Truth is, the exhibition of firm political will by the government can singularly breathe life into the Chatham House and several other reports’ recommendations. After all, even the most meticulously crafted strategy is only effective when it is actually implemented.
In a televised Presidential Media Chat on Sunday 29th September, President Goodluck Jonathan had this to say about the phenomenon of oil theft:
“The stealing of crude oil didn’t just start now, it started since the military regime [...] Oil theft is not done by petty thieves but by big people and exporters, to end it, we need the assistance of our foreign country friends and refiners to stop accepting stolen crude. In addition, we have committees on the issue who meet regularly”
Paperback and kindle editions available on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Publication Date: February 2013
“…to put on record my version of events…” is one of the reasons Nasir El-Rufai puts forward for writing his provocative autobiography, The Accidental Public Servant. It’s a book which could easily tie with Chinua Achebe’s memoirs, as the most debated in Nigeria’s recent history. Flipping through the pages, it was apparent that readers could choose to either verify or refute El-Rufai’s version of events in government, or appreciate its rare insight into the intricacies of Nigeria’s fourth democratic experience. I opted for the latter.
As the title suggests, the overall theme of the book revolves around the intriguing journey of an individual from very humble beginnings in an idyllic post-independence era, in a rural part of Katsina, northern Nigeria, to occupying one of the highest public offices in 21st century Nigeria. The reader glimpses into how El-Rufai’s fiercely independent, resolute, feisty and cerebral personality evolves from the tragedy of his father’s passing, the calculated attrition against Sunday, the primary school bully, the role-model influence of his brother in his early years and becoming a self-made private sector millionaire by his mid-twenties (p.36).
The “accidental” part of El-Rufai’s journey begins, from the age of 38 with his reluctant entry in government in 1998 as an adviser for the military government of Abdulsalam Abubakar. It continues through to his appointment as the Director-General of the main privatisation agency, the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and then as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and his membership of the elite corps of economic reformers between 2003 and 2007.
Along the way, lifelong friendships are built and broken, alliances are forged and betrayed and the gruelling challenge of public service and reform in the midst of entrenched practices and powerful vested interests takes its toll. He strives to balance public and personal interests with loyalties as he gets caught in the middle of altercations between a strong-willed President Olusegun Obasanjo and his equally powerful Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. At the height of these disagreements, El-Rufai inadvertently rises to a defacto Vice-President, a position which would ironically lead to his persecution and exile less than a year after leaving public office.
A refreshing aspect of the book is the revelation and demystification of the inner-workings of the highest levels of governance in Africa’s most populous country. For instance, El-Rufai stresses how appointments for the highest public offices, are mostly fortuitous, having little to do with meritocratic or rigorous processes. His narration of events during his first few days as FCT minister (p.199), what to expect after a ministerial nomination, the obstructive tactics of entrenched civil servants opposed to reform are insightful and invaluable details that offer a useful departure from textbook political theory or international ‘best practice.’
In particular, the author’s revelation that without a coherent plan, a new and mostly unprepared government minister could easily drown in administrative routine attending to “more than 100 visitors and 200 phone calls” daily for the duration of their tenure, is instructive (p.201). He discusses the immense influence such appointees wield and how they become devastated when they leave office, once the lucrative perks of office are withdrawn and the “hundreds of phone calls a day… drop to near zero” the very next day (p.393)! These are valuable disclosures for the younger generation planning to go into public service.
El-Rufai also underscores the absolute importance of political will by a president in effecting key reforms. With Obasanjo’s backing, the residence of the powerful chairman of the ruling party was demolished as part of the restoration of the FCT master plan (p.296) and a number of seemingly impossible tasks are implemented seamlessly. The reader thus gets a glimpse into Obasanjo’s ambivalent approach to governance: a wilful, ex-military leader, with an eye for good people, an ear for good advice and a vision for Nigeria despite his links with vested interests and rentier elite, but who was unfortunately consumed by his vindictiveness and narrow ambitions to run for a third term in office. The reader is likely to come off with a better informed and more respectable view of The Obasanjo personality.
El-Rufai also rightly reflects on a fundamental yet overlooked implication of the decline of Nigerian public education and constituent alumni networks which are critical to leadership and elite incubation (p.42-43). He stresses how friendship and alumni networks in Barewa College and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria proved useful in several instances in his life and in public service. He laments that the decline of hitherto elitist public institutions mean that their local and important alumni networks such as the Barewa Old Boys Association are now unavailable to foreign-educated Nigerians, his own children inclusive.
However, the scant mention of the highly controversial NITEL-Pentascope privatisation controversy is quite conspicuous. This is especially since El-Rufai studiously accounts for the key hallmarks and controversies of his stewardship of the BPE and the FCT Ministry. While the author does state that a full account of the NITEL saga would come in a BPE monograph (p.128), most readers would have appreciated at least a few paragraphs devoted to this contentious issue.
The author’s approach of divulging the inner workings of governance at the highest levels, and naming and shaming the key players irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation is truly refreshing. Yet in a few instances, there’s a nagging feeling that he probably divulged too much. This ranges from revealing verbatim, some conversations which held in strict confidence to the extremely personal details about meeting and marrying his subsequent wives.
Notwithstanding, the rare insight El-Rufai provides into the highest echelons of power, politics and decision-making in Nigeria is unprecedented. The heated debate sparked by the book should prompt other key actors to document their own version of events, ultimately to the betterment of Nigerians outside the tight power circle. For Nasir El-Rufai the successful entrepreneur, technocrat, exiled student and now leading opposition politician, one can only wonder what the future holds.
“Some mosques in particular consistently condemned me and prayed for my downfall. One or two declared me an apostate for daring to demolish a mosque, conveniently forgetting that Prophet Muhammad ordered the demolition of an illegal mosque in Madina Al-Munawwarah, some 1,400 years earlier. Many of the affected ‘churches’ prayed that “by God’s grace, El-Rufai will go down, El-Rufai will lose his job, El-Rufai will die in Jesus’ name.” I was there for nearly four years and we removed all of them.” (p.212)
Culled from the World Bank:
“The Africa Region of the World Bank Group is launching the World Bank Group Fellowship Program for Ph.D. students of African descent. The program will increase the diverse workforce that is a priority for the Bank and its clients.
The Fellowship Program aims to build a pipeline of researchers and professionals from the African Diaspora, particularly women, who are interested in working in the development field at home or abroad, and in starting careers with the World Bank Group.”
Information about eligibility requirements, application procedure and so on is available on the Bank’s website. Alternatively watch the video promo below:
The Students’ Association of Nigerians in the Diaspora (SAND) – UK is organising a conference titled “Nigeria Beyond Oil: Opportunities in Enterprise and Development” as part of its Annual Nigeria Diaspora Youth Leadership Summit. The conference is scheduled to take place on 4th September 2013 at the London School of Economics and Political Science. I have been invited to chair a panel on “Achieving Nigeria Beyond Oil: The place of Youth Entrepreneurship” featuring five panelists. Find the conference agenda here (PDF).
The conference is set to host an array of prominent speakers such as Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (GCON), former vice president of Nigeria, Inuwa Abddul-Kadir, the Nigerian Minister of Youth Development (FRN), Professor Julius Okojie the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Elizabeth Donnelly, Assistant Head Africa Programme, Chatham House and many others.
If you’re in the London area, don’t miss this!
Dr. Kingsely C. Moghalu, deputy governor of the Nigerian Central Bank recently unveiled his latest book, Emerging Africa: How the Global Economy’s ‘Last Frontier’ Can Prosper and Matter at the Woodrow Wilson Center in the United States (the book was officially launched in Nigeria a few months ago). The book offers a realistic assessment of Africa’s economic development trajectory within the context of contemporary threats and opportunities in the global economy. In other words, he goes beyond the “Africa Rising” mantra to provide a realistic assessment, in his words. Here is a video of his presentation.
Here are some excerpts from his opening line:
“…Africa has caught the imagination of the world, not as a basket case not with kids with flies on their mouths and protruded bellies, but as part of the world where people can legitimately aspire to opportunities… as part of the world where business can be made…where money can be made… in short, a normal part of the world, and that’s good…about time too…
…but as those who love Africa, we have a responsibility to interrogate a number of conventional wisdom(s) that have come out of the new “brand Africa” that has emerged in the last 10 years, but most recently, in the last 5 years…
…So we’ve seen a lot of books about “Africa Rising” “Africa’s Time”, about “Africa’s Turn” and there’s a lot of good feeling going round, and that’s fine. But it’s important to interrogate these conventional wisdom(s)… Africa is at an important inflection point, Africa is at a… fork in the road, it can go this way or that way, it’s at a point of promise, at a point of opportunity, but Africa hasn’t risen yet! Let’s be clear!
I am not here to give you some feel good message like some insurance salesman about how wonderful things have become, or will soon become about Africa. I am here to give you some hard headed, realistic and I believe, informed insight into Africa’s economic prospects in the context of the world economy and in the context of globalisation…”
He also argues for a paradigm shift and the need to develop an “African world view” in the minds of Africans:
“There’s a tendency to discuss Africa not by Africans but by non-Africans, and that’s fine, that’s a legitimate discourse. But Africans also should be part of that discussion, interpreting their continent, interpreting their prospects… their societies, their politics to themselves from their standpoint. There’s too little of this happening.
…Virtually all the books that have defined “Africa’s rise”, the construction of the myth of “Africa Rising” have been engineered, designed, constructed almost completely by non-Africans… When you read these books, there are certain things they tend to focus.”
He talks about a whole lot of things: economic and structural transformation, the imperative of taking the industrialisation- and manufacturing-route to economic development, rather than simply focusing only on services-led development, economic diversification from resource-based economies and so on.
The one thing I can say for now is that based on Moghalu’s track record as a respected academic, an influential policy maker within Nigeria and a development expert at the global level — a person in-the-know — he ought to be taken seriously by Africans and friends of Africa.
I am yet to lay my hands on the book, but if I were to infer on its content from Moghalu’s lecture, then this blog shares his cautious sentiment to “Africa Rising” mantra. Indeed several articles posted here have reflected on some of these ideas. Its not time to celebrate Africa’s “prosperity” just yet, but if we take the right steps at this momentous period, we will celebrate and make merry soon.
This is a very interesting documentary by Aljazeera, which captures the current trend of reverse European migration to former colonies in Africa and South America. Many Spaniards and Portuguese are now moving to Mozambique and Angola in Africa and Brazil, Argentina and Chile in South America to secure jobs and other economic opportunities.
Some highlights of the documentary include:
- “Lisbon (Portugal) is witnessing an unprecedented trend — EU citizens queuing outside African embassies for work visas” from 2.00 min onwards.
- About 5 mins into the video, the narrator says “…majority don’t see the themselves as immigrants”. Then a young Portuguese chap says: “we are not here for our whole lives, only temporary. I am not here to lay down roots. I am only here because I have been forced to emigrate. I would’ve never left Portugal voluntarily. My plan is to go back to Portugal once the situation has improved”
- Each month, the Portuguese consulate in Mozambique registers over 150 new arrivals.
- About EUR 2bn are remitted to Portugal each year from Portuguese expats.
- In Argentina, new laws guarantee immigrants access to healthcare and education, and allow them to stay even if they have no work.
This is certainly fascinating. I can’t help imagining the consequences of this reverse migration in the medium term.
First, will this new and rising inflow cause tensions between citizens and the immigrants in terms of access to economic opportunities? Even though, in many cases, the immigrants are not directly displacing the local population, but are plugging existing skills gap.
Second, what will be the impact of this inflow of (mostly skilled) migrants: skills and technology transfer, economic growth or greater capital flight?
Third, what about the fortress-Europe approach to immigration, at least in/to the countries in question? If a good number of the young and the skilled are leaving for elsewhere, within the context of an ageing population and a rising dependency ratio soon to rival Sub-Saharan Africa (see projections by the UN here), economic….er…”constraints” (national debt and economic stagnation, to mention two only) and very hostile anti-immigration policies, who will foot the tax bill in these countries in the medium to long-term, if these trends continue? Will these trends affect the hostile anti-immigration debates in Europe?
Four, are other African countries particularly the anglophone and francophone ones positioning themselves to make the most of this momentous opportunity?
We really need to think about some of these questions and more.
Oh Nigeria, please get your act together. *sighs*
Nigeria’s former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, recently announced that he is offering one undergraduate/postgraduate scholarship to young Nigerians, to cover study within Nigeria or in a foreign institution. The details of the scheme titled “Education Solutions” are available on his website here.
The scholarship scheme has been attracting mixed reactions on social media so far– applause and condemnation in almost equal proportion. Personally, I am very ambivalent about it. While I will not condemn it, I certainly think more can be done to improve education as a whole in Nigeria, through teacher trainings and workshops, provision of books and study materials, advocacy campaigns and so on, rather than giving out one scholarship. To be fair to the former vice president though, he has emphasised that it is a nascent, pilot scheme, and he does own one of the most reputable private universities in the country, the American University of Nigeria.
Ultimately, there is no harm in our former public officials giving back to society. Giving out scholarships through a competitive process that selects the best and the brightest and changes someone’s life positively certainly beats sitting idly about, making self-serving, inflammatory and polarising press statements threatening that “Power Must Return to the North or Else…” or “Power Must Remain in the South or Else…” whilst sitting on a huge mound of fortune that is either frittered away in obscene and vainglorious consumption, or that lies dormant in Swiss Banks, South African hotels, Malibu mansions and Emirati apartment blocks. Call it the lesser of two evils if you must.
Now imagine if more of Nigeria’s “big men” were to invest in education, advocacy, and productive enterprises at home. We probably wouldn’t be begging the Americans, Europeans and lately the Chinese to do OUR work for us: to come establish labour-intensive manufacturing firms on our shores. If only 10% of Nigeria’s $170 billion stashed in foreign accounts (these are 2003 figures, the current figures must be several multiples of this amount) were to be re-invested back home, the tremendous impact it would have on our economy is best left to the imagination.
I have argued severally that a lot of our former public officials need to make themselves useful. It has been 14 years since the transition to democracy. These 14 years have created many former governors, former ministers, former senators, former ambassadors and others who have held influential positions (I haven’t even included the titans of the military era). These are individuals with the resources and the clout to make a direct positive impact on their communities in numerous ways. A few of them have proceeded to establish consultancies, NGOs, think tanks or are still engaged in politics or policy. Some have chosen to retire in peace. Many others have temporarily skulked back into the depths of obscurity, resurfacing occasionally to rally young Nigerians to their ethno-centric, bigoted and self-serving causes.
There are so many productive ways to get involved.
One way is advocacy and enlightenment campaigns on leadership and good governance to ensure people at the grassroots stop selling their votes to the highest bidder.
Another is advocacy and enlightenment campaigns to ensure young women are enrolled and allowed to complete at the barest minimum secondary school education especially in the North East and North West.
A third could be the establishment of profit-making enterprises (if they can’t find competent local managers, they can hire qualified expatriates – there are many!) which will create value and jobs in their communities and make more money for them.
A fourth could be teaching and lecturing in many of our tertiary institutions that are wallowing in the dearth of expertise and learning equipment. Writing opinion pieces on the pages of newspapers is just not enough. Young Nigerians in tertiary institutions will benefit tremendously from the wealth of their experience in public service.
The list is endless. Most of them are influential. Many of them have the resources. Many of them can make a difference.
It is really tempting to dismiss Atiku Abubakar’s scholarship scheme or to question his motive. Indeed, one might even wonder whether the scheme will last beyond the 2014 elections primaries. Nevertheless, society will definitely benefit from more of the well-to-do giving back in useful ways that will make a real difference to people’s lives.