Fashola’s successor… Testing the water with debate on religion

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
The dress rehearsal for the battles ahead over who occupies Lagos State’s coveted governorship seat come May 29, 2015 is now in full swing.
So far, nothing has been spared by top and lowly rated performers to devote greater attention to details in the run-in to the gubernatorial election, and this includes non-verbal signs of serious and media-hyped aspirants like the nuances of facial expressions and body language, political and social affiliations, social media ratings, attendance at public functions, and visibility in mainstream media.
For the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the choice of a party flag bearer has been benchmarked on one score: Ability of aspirants to trace their genealogy to Lagos East senatorial district.
This zoning arrangement, which is alien to the APC or the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), is a deft move by party leaders to take the governorship round the three senatorial districts. Lagos West have had it for two terms of eight years with APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu from 1999 to 2007 before the baton was handed over to the incumbent governor, Babatunde Fashola, from Lagos Central, who is on the last lap of his eight years in office.
The zoning clause may not count much for some aspirants in the APC, who only need some high-profile endorsements to validate their claims of hailing from any of the three major strongholds in Lagos East – Ikorodu, Ibeju-Lekki, or Epe.

RelFurthermore, it is not a strange phenomenon for politicians in the state to cross-carpet from one senatorial district to the other without qualms.

For instance, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji is currently representing Lagos West after his first term in the same capacity (office) representing Lagos East from 2007 to 2011.

But of great concern to Lagosians in the ongoing scheming and game of wits is the faint drumbeat from political gladiators, which is being given expression through religious ‘politricking’. It is the agitation for a Christian governor in 2015.

Waiting in the wings to benefit from this crusade (although not of his own making or that of his benefactor, who is a Moslem) is the state’s former Accountant-General, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, whose ‘dark horse’ entry into the race for Fashola’s successor got a massive lift with the recent endorsement by the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu.

This endorsement, which was viewed as too early by some political watchers, has elicited criticisms, which could end up as a distraction to the Ambode project.

However, Fashola unsurprisingly threw jabs at promoters of religious consideration for governorship campaign when he condemned the demand by some groups in the state that a Christian should be his successor in 2015, saying: “Do they really believe in God? It is only God that can insist.”

Ambode (middle) discussing with close associates

Ambode (middle) discussing with close associates

It is believed that Fashola expressed this sentiment while declaring open an inter-faith conference in Lagos, with the theme: ‘Peace, Religious Harmony and Good Governance: Issues and Challenges,’ because of his perceived leanings towards one of the aspirants and his Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Obafemi Kadiri Hamzat, a fellow Moslem.

According to Fashola: “People have said that they want one particular governor and I have asked myself two questions – the people who said that they want one particular governor or that there must be this other particular governor, are they still conscious that it is an election where a choice has to be made? If there are two democrats, they should expect that citizens must have a say in who is sworn-in as the governor of their state. Secondly, can you insist that you will be alive in the next one hour?”

The governor, who insisted that religion should not used to determine his successor, added: “Good governance means different things to people. For the majority, good governance is just food, the ability to get a job and provision of social amenities. For those people, the faith of the governor is never their problem.”

Currently, several Lagosians, aspirants inclusive, have made religion an issue in a cosmopolitan and pluralistic state like Lagos. Prominent among them is Senator Ganiyu Solomon, representing Lagos West at the National Assembly. For him, religion has never been an issue in Lagos politics and should be kept out of it.

“It is a very emotional and sensitive issue in view of what is going on in the country today. In this particular part of the country, we don’t discuss religion when it comes to governance. This is the first time some people are bringing it up and I can tell you that they are bringing it up because of their own selfish interests. I don’t want to go further,” he said.

Governor Fashola

Governor Fashola

An APC chieftain, Alhaji Ganiyu Oseni, while describing the attempts to infuse religion into politics as political shenanigans, tricks and manipulations said: “There is a clear cut difference between the church and the state. Can anybody go to Abia, Imo, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom or Cross River and say they want a Muslim candidate?

“Democracy is a government of the people by the people for the people. You can’t go to Zamfara, Katsina, Kano and Jigawa states and say you must have a Christian governor. I am very disturbed that people are bringing religion into politics. We may know the beginning of such issues, but nobody knows the end.

“Deep down in me, I don’t believe in imposition. The choice must be by the people. Lagos State is not a state of a particular religion, we have Muslims, Christians and other religious adherents in large number, but all we need is good leadership that will deliver dividends of democracy to the people.”

A Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart, who is also eyeing his party’s governorship ticket, said the issue of religion is a weapon that aspirants, who, on their own, cannot win election, are employing to gain advantage that they don’t deserve. He declared: “If you examine all the aspirants, who are using religion today, none of them has the political weight to make any meaningful impact on their own. Is it Ambode with no political relevance or Jimi Agbaje, who doesn’t know which party to join less than eight months to the general elections? The beauty of Lagos is its religious neutrality and it is in our common interest to protect that.”

LAGOS HOUSE: Front view of the Governor's Office, Alausa

LAGOS HOUSE: Front view of the Governor’s Office, Alausa

To sample people’s opinions on the matter, The Guardian took the debate to the streets of Lagos and the following was the response:

The time is ripe for a Christian governor

– Akinnibi Damilola Shina

Religion would influence the next election because it has suddenly come to the notice of everybody that majority of those in the present cabinet in the state are Muslims. Sensitization is ongoing about this and we Christians are ready to ensure we determine our fate.

The media should focus more on serious issues

– Idris Olakunle Bello

I am perturbed and disappointed that the press failed to address key issues. Growth and development of the state should be greater imperatives than question of religion. The press should stop misleading the electorate. We are wiser than the falsity of the pen.

It is politically wise for parties to pick a Christian candidate

– Olawale Oladejo

Although religion shouldn’t be a yardstick to determine who governs, but many people are clamouring for a Christian governor and to win public sentiment any serious minded political party will choose a Christian candidate and with such scenario, I believe religion will influence the choice of the next governor.

Lagos is a pluralistic state

– Akinyele Akinrujomu

Religion cannot and will not play any meaningful role. As a Christian, I know that the bulk of the people troubling Nigeria today profess to be Christians. Leadership is a calling, anybody that is called, chosen or elected should be allowed to lead and add value to governance. Lagos is a civilized and pluralistic state. Religion should not be allowed to cause division and disaffection in 2015.

We say no to godfathers

– Abdulhakeem Olanrewaju

We have both Christians and Muslims in government presently, what have they done? Nothing. Both adherents of the two religions in politics do not fear what their end will be. My opinion is that Godfatherism should be out of politics. Let us vote in a new party entirely that will govern not under the influence of some people. That’s all.

Religion will largely determine 2015 election

– Charles Iwenofu

Religion is something that can never be removed from politics of the under-developing nations, unlike the rest of the developed world. Religious forces will largely determine 2015 election, at least by 60 percent, while credibility of candidates will make up the remaining 40 percent.

Lagosians will vote for personality not religion

– Oshiobugie Ronald

Religion can’t play any significant role in Nigerian politics at the state level, though it has a way of influencing at the federal level. Lagosians vote personality and not on religious basis.

Religion should not be allowed to divide us

– Jamiu Abdullahi

My advice to Lagosians is that politics and politicians should not be allowed to divide us. There is hardly a family where you won’t find Christians and Muslims and they have coexisted peacefully.

Religion may end up breaking Nigeria

– Adetolu Abdulrazaq

That is the beginning of our problems in Nigeria. And if we don’t take religion out of it, we will end up breaking the country.

Those campaigning with religion are enemies of Lagos

– Asuni Ademola

Religion has never been part of Lagos politics. Those who are calling for religion are jokers and enemies of Lagos. Bringing religion into politics is a very dangerous thing.

Muslim governors are better

– Chuks Michael

Religion has nothing to do with good governance. Though I am a Christian but I see more development from most Muslim governors. I am not trying to prove others wrong but we Christians still act like unbelievers.

Religion should decide for equity sake

– Chiemeka Lloyd Agu

Yes, religion has to decide who becomes the next Lagos State governor because to the best of my knowledge, Lagos needs a Christian person as the next governor in 2015 for equity.

History will repeat itself

– Paul Yabugbe

It has happened before in Lagos when the late Michael Otedola of the NRC beat Dapo Sarumi of the SDP though SDP dominated the House of Assembly.

Religion will play a factor

– Adedoyin Adeleke Samuel

It would definitely; because that is just our mentality in Nigeria. If God says yes, no one can say no.

The game is played by the Muslims

– Iheanyi Wisdom

A Christian will hardly rule Lagos. That is the truth, just like a Muslim will never rule Abia State. Never.

Religion will play a big role

– Innocent Ani

Religion will play a big role come 2015 in Lagos. If APC wants to give the PDP a chance, let it field a Muslim candidate.

It does not determine success

– Sunmola Temitope Shogbesan

Whether it is a Christian or Muslim that rules, it doesn’t guarantee any success. Only God can lead us right. I pray God should give us the person that would have the interest of the masses at heart.

Religion should not matter

– Anthony Agbo Nath

Religion shouldn’t matter but the person who is capable of bringing development to the people. However, I have observed that Muslims can’t exist without being in power.

This debate is a distraction

– Akeem Faruq

The introduction of religion into Lagos politics is a wicked strategy to create an opportunity for a weakling to become governor. Lagosians have never been known to vote for a governor based on religion. I don’t believe religion can play any meaningful impact in the Lagos governorship elections.

Religion is a non-issue

– Banjo Julius

It should not but it may. For me religion is no longer an issue, but finding a leader who is more concerned about the people he leads.

The voters are now wiser

– Harrison Aduluwa

If the people’s wishes speak, I think Nigerians are getting wiser. But come to think of it, the Southwest never allowed such until Rauf’s unity school plan played up religion as a factor.

Rigging, not religion will decide 2015

– Nwagwu Kelechi

Religion won’t, but multiple taxation will. And just as they have been doing in the past, assassination and rigging would also decide the election.

Politics is a game where nothing is impossible

– Jephtah Omavueya

Politics in Nigeria is like football where nothing is impossible.

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Nigeria attracts global business community

By Tope Templer Olaiya

After successfully hosting the 24th edition of the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory amid grave security concerns, the stage is now set for the Greater London Business Conference on Nigeria, holding in September. The conference is being anchored by the Nigerian London Business Forum (NILOBF).

NILOBF, a registered United Kingdom (UK) non-profit organisation, in conjunction with the Nigerian High Commission in London and the British High Commission in Nigeria, seeks to promote bilateral trade and investment relations between the two countries by bringing together business people from Nigeria and the UK to seek new investment opportunities, develop long term business relationships and finalize existing business contracts.

It is also the official business chamber and trade association, comprising Nigerian, British and non-British companies doing business with Nigeria, including subsidiaries of Nigerian companies/institutions doing business in the UK.

While the bloody terror attacks at Nyanya Motor Park, Abuja and the abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls at Chibok in Borno State cast a huge shadow of insecurity on the conference, the incidents ended up becoming the tipping point in Nigeria’s battle with Boko Haram, leading to massive international outrage.

Although WEFA was a continental showpiece, Nigeria as the host emerged the ultimate beneficiary. It galvanized the world against the insurgents that have made economic and social life unbearable in some parts of the north. It unified global voices and action against the kidnap of the schoolgirls.

NILOBF PHOTO 1This is aside the commitment from investors across the globe pledging to invest billions of dollars in Nigeria’s critical sectors such as energy, agriculture, healthcare and infrastructure, among others.

On September 17 & 18 at the Royal National Hotel, London, the world will gather in London and the subject of the two-day conference would be Nigeria in the MINT – Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey – predicted as the next most powerful economic bloc

According to the country director of the forum in Nigeria, who is also the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Credit Administration (ICA), Dr. Chris Onalo, “the forum intends to capitalize on this current issue very quickly to further influence British trade and investment with Nigeria, especially going by the notion that UK companies are yet to view Nigeria as an important business and investment destination.

“Also, high profile Nigerian businesses and investment organizations are scrambling to buy a space of prominence to showcase their business services to the international community during the conference expo.”

The term, MINT, was originally coined by Fidelity Investments, a Boston-based asset management firm and was popularized by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs, who had created the term BRICS, an acronym for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The group of developing or newly industrialized countries was originally known as BRIC before the inclusion of South Africa in 2010.

The nomenclatures of economic trading blocs are becoming numerous: it all started with G8 (the great eight largest economies), G20 and then BRICS. The emergence of MINT has affirmed Nigeria as one of the four countries with bright economic prospects, where smart money should be invested. Of the MINT countries, he singled out Nigeria as having the ‘wow’ factor.

O'Neil

O’Neil

Jim O’Neil would be the keynote speaker at the event, which will provide him the opportunity to share his globally-acclaimed economic view at the Greater London Business conference. Alongside O’Neil are other globally respected speakers, including Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Sam Ohuabunwa, former president, Nigeria Economic Summit; John Momoh, chairman/CEO, Channels Television; Engr. Emeka Unachukwu, managing director/CEO, Morflex Energy and Power ltd; and Simon Brown, senior manager for East and West Africa, UKTI, London.

This is how Jim O’ Neil introduced MINT in his article in Bloomberg, which he delineated as the potential emerging investment destination: “I spent last week in Indonesia, working on a series for BBC Radio about four of the world’s most populous non-BRIC emerging economies. The BRIC — Brazil, Russia, India and China — are already closely watched. The group I’m studying for this project — let’s call them the MINT economies — deserve no less attention. Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey all have very favorable demographics for at least the next 20 years, and their economic prospects are interesting.
“Policy makers and thinkers in the MINT countries have often asked me why I left them out of that first classification. Indonesians made the point with particular force. Over the years I’ve become accustomed to being told that the BRIC countries should have been the BRIICs all along, or maybe even the BIICs. Wasn’t Indonesia’s economic potential more compelling than Russia’s? Despite the size of its relatively young population (a tremendous asset), I thought it unlikely that Indonesia would do enough on the economic-policy front to quickly realize that potential.

“Nigeria that has been denied membership of various neologisms of emerging economies including G20 and BRICS has finally made the list of MINT nations. Being given the due respect that Nigeria has been searching for does not transpire that the country has finally arrived. But making the list of MINT speaks volume and acknowledges that Nigeria is in the right direction. Nigeria is getting her economic house in order and doing those things she needs to do to be seriously noticed by frontier investors and money managers around the world.

“Nigeria is a middle-income, mixed economy and emerging market, with expanding financial, service, communications and entertainment sectors. It is ranked 30th (40th in 2005, 52nd in 2000), in the world in terms of Gross Domestic Product at purchasing power parity as of 2012, and 3rd largest within Africa (behind South Africa and Egypt), on track to potentially becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020. Its re-emergent, though currently under-performing, manufacturing sector is the third-largest on the continent, and produces a large proportion of goods and services for the West African region.

Tafida

Tafida

 

“It is self-evident and a fact that Nigeria is potentially a wealthy nation that can make it to an industrialized economy but she has not been serious and has drowned herself in corruption and inefficiency, wallowing in self-pity and grandiose perception of her place under the sun. But Nigeria, once referred to as “sleeping giant” is steadily and gradually waking up from her sleep and commences turning a new page this time around.”

Interestingly, of the four MINT countries, Nigeria’s population is projected to outstrip other MINT countries by 2050 with population set to hit 402 million people. Of the four countries, Nigeria and Indonesia have the most consistent GDP at around six to eight per cent. The two countries have the lowest GDPs of the four MINT countries, at $1,555 and $3,557 per capita respectively, compared with $9,749 in Mexico, $10,666 in Turkey, and $51,749 in the United States of America, according to 2012 figures from the World Bank.

Jim O’ Neil’s views on Nigeria got a boost by the recent rebasing of the country’s economy. After months of faltering, owing to the complexity of the task, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released the revised Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers. Nigeria‘s GDP has not been rebased since 1990, contrary to global best practice of re-benchmarking every five years. This implies that the country has had to rely on outdated figures for the last 24 years. The year 2010 was adopted as the base year for the revision and more recent economic activities have been captured in sectors such as telecommunications and entertainment industry.

As a result of the rebasing, the size of the Nigerian economy has grown by 89 per cent to N80.3 trillion ($509.9bn). This ranks Nigeria as the world’s 26 largest economy, the largest economy in Africa, bigger than Angola, Egypt and Vietnam put together, and 12 times the Ghanaian economy. The 89 per cent jump thumps the expectations and forecasts of analysts who projected an increase of between 40 and 60 per cent from the rebasing.

      The Greater London Business Conference on Nigeria is coming on the heels of a recently concluded United Kingdom-Nigeria Trade and Investment roundtable, held in London by NILOBF in conjunction with the Business Chamber Trade Association of UK.

Nigeria’s ambassador to the UK, Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, had set the tone for discussions in his keynote address on activities of the Nigeria High Commission, London in the promotion of bilateral economic relations between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

According to him, Nigeria and the UK have continued to enjoy cordial bilateral trade and economic relations due to historical antecedents and shared ties in language, education and legal system, which have reinforced the robust relations and positively impacted on the economic prosperity of the two countries.

He said: “Presently, Nigeria is UK’s second largest trading partner in Africa after South Africa and it is 32nd largest worldwide. The drive for improved trade and economic relations made the leaders of the two countries, President Goodluck Jonathan and David Cameron in June 2011 set an ambitious goal to double bilateral trade to eight billion pounds by 2014. Nigeria and the UK are very well on the way to achieving and possibly, surpassing the ambitious goal set by the two leaders.

“It is instructive to note that in 2011when the goal was set, the volume of bilateral trade was about four billion pounds and rose to seven billion pounds. There is also a conscious effort on the part of the two countries to diversify and shift focus from oil, financial services and food products, which had dominated Nigeria-UK trade relations in the past to the non-oil sectors, including agriculture, infrastructure, creative industry, information technology and retail business.”

But the events of the past two months – the bombings, the Chibok schoolgirls’ kidnapping, the government’s half-hearted response and the arrival of US, French and Israeli military advisers to attempt a belated rescue – have all served to expose the hollowness of Nigeria’s prosperity.

Scratch the surface and look beyond the boldfaced numbers, and it quickly becomes evident that long before these horrific recent developments, Nigeria was grappling with poor governance and failing institutions.

In reality, the growth story was never so simple. Inequality has long been part of the subtext. The majority of Nigerians have actually grown poorer as the country thrived, exacerbating tensions between the rich and the poor.

“Maintaining the status quo is not tenable,” says Elsie Kanza, Africa Director of the World Economic Forum. “It is not tenable to leave populations out of the growth process.”

A few numbers illustrate this point all too clearly. Nigeria’s growth averaged 7.4 per cent over the past decade. In that period, the number of Nigerians living on less than $1 a day rose from 54.7 to 60.9 percent. And these disparities do not show signs of improving for the next generation.