Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Our President Engages in Toxic Political Campaign While Nigeria Burns

I still can’t fathom the type of leeches and sycophants who surrounds and counsels President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. For him  to strut out and go on political campaign at Kaduna soon after  over 100 Nigerians lost their lives to a terrorist bomb blast at Nyanya Bus Stop in Abuja is quite inexplicable. However the part that is more baffling to me is the president’s own decision to engage in scurrilous attack on the governor of the state he went to campaign at. The fact that the campaign event also happened on a day Professor Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s only Nobel laureate, called for a bipartisan solution to the ongoing terror war is quite numbing. The questions that kept coming to me are these: what is wrong with Aso Rock? Are there no adults around anymore over there? But the most embarrassingly shocking thing for me are the content of the president’s words at the campaign event. This is indeed a case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

Let’s take a look at the president campaign rhetoric at Kaduna, on a day he had just visited blast site and learned that additional 80 Nigerian school age girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorist. According to Punch Newspapers,President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday took on Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso of Kano State, accusing him of embezzling the money his (President’s) campaign office provided to mobilize the state delegates for the 2011 presidential primary of the Peoples Democratic Party and the main election. “Even the little money that my campaign office provided for refreshment of the Kano delegates and for their transport, Kwakwanso refused to give to the delegates. “He did that so that the Kano delegates will be angry and they will not vote for me. “Even for the main election, the little money the campaign office sent to Kano State to facilitate the movement of people, Kwakwanso refused to give the money to anybody. How can Kwankwaso tell people that he voted for me?”

Let’s set aside the propriety of the president making such a jejune issue a campaign talking point, (because if the money is “little money” it matters little to him and probably to politicians like him), and focus on legality of providing money to voters during election time (apparently to sway their votes), be it at the primary (it is expressly prohibited by PDP constitution) and general election (INEC statute actually makes this a ground for criminal investigation and disqualification). A president dumb enough to campaign on the day he lost a centurion of his citizens and over 80 young girls kidnapped is definitely not a serious leader.

It is high time Nigerians of all hue begins to talk about a post Jonathan administration in Nigeria. Nigeria leadership of all hue needs to come together in a bipartisan way to address the terror stalking our land. The charade going on in the name of National conference is not a vehicle that will get us there. You do not go ahead with a national conference where only those who agree with you attend. You work out the kinks and reach out to the opposition to get them involved. So forget the sleepers at the National Conference. Let all Nigerians begins to clamor for the leadership of the two political parties to come together and establish a joint framework on how we can decisively deal with violence in our land whether it be those fomented by MEND, OPC, Kidnappers or Boko Haram. We cannot rely on this presidency to get us out of quagmire politicians drove us into. The time for change is now!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Guest: Is Nigeria Africa’s Biggest Economy Now? Maybe!


Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

Nigerians, yesterday, discovered the surprising news that the size of their economy had doubled overnight, making it the largest economy in Africa and the 26th largest in the world. It took the biggest in Africa crown away from South Africa, which still has a much larger GDP per capita.

Nigeria hadn’t calculated its GDP since 1990, and the new number takes into account a number of new industries for the country including telecommunications and the booming Nollywood film industry.

This isn’t the first time this has happened in Africa in recent years. After a similar recalculation in 2010, the size of Ghana’s economy “grew” by 60 percent, catapulting it into the World Bank’s middle-income bracket.

Given that these countries seem to have had entire sectors of the economy they were leaving off their books, it certainly raises some questions about other GDP figures we see reported on a regular basis.

The unreliability of African economic statistics was the topic of a book last year by Simon Fraser University economist Morten Jerven. Jerven argues that GDP “is the most widely used measure of economic activity, yet little is known about how this metric is produced and misused in debates about African economic development.”

On the other hand, as my old colleague Uri Friedman asks, “Are we too obsessed with GDP as a measure of countries' economic strength and health?”

As Chris Blattman put it last year, policymakers are hung up on the reliability of statistics because they “want the world nicely ordered with levers to pull and a dashboard to monitor.” Improving the numbers we have would be great, but most countries have more pressing concerns.

(See Dayo Olopade’s new book The Bright Continent for an welcome antidote to state- and statistic-oriented thinking about economic development in Africa.)

The fact that Nigeria’s economy is significantly bigger this week, and that oil is less of a factor in its growth is good PR for the Nigerian government. (Who doesn’t love Nollywood?) But it doesn’t really do much for you if you’re Nigerian. As one social media user quoted by the AP put it, “Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy - on paper. So technically, I’m rich in theory.”

If Nigeria’s figures were off for so long, I’m guessing most citizens probably aren’t filled with confidence that they’re totally correct now. Today’s news probably tells us less about how we should view Nigeria than how we should view published GDP figures as a measure of anything close to reality.