7 June 2006

Nigeria: Femi Fani-Kayode: Rewarding Rudeness


Three weeks ago, I had written on this page that the events leading to the defeat of the third term agenda have irretrievably damaged the Obasanjo presidency. This is because the wholesome conspiracy he perpetrated against the nation's constitutional order had not only been so overwhelmingly defeated and exposed, his much-vaunted and carefully constructed persona, as an anti-corruption czar, doggedly committed to the nation's progress was exposed for the fraud it always was.

Obasanjo's over-bloated ego was mercilessly deflated like a cheap, second hand tube of an equally over-patched Tokunbo tire. It was this circumstance that fell him from the heights of arrogance where he had always perched with absolute contempt for the Nigerian people; he was obliged to attempt to play the statesman, as we saw at the hurriedly organized NEC meeting of the vote-rigging contraption they call the PDP. But as I noted in my reflections on this page, what played out at that forum was not states manship but the desperation of a deflated despot, who fell flat on his face, revealing a most unsightly hind place.

The Obasanjo persona is actually a split one, he has shown in recent weeks the two sides of this split personality, both sides evil, as I have always argued. He claimed that he wanted reconciliation with those that he alienated, ridiculed and disgraced as part of his agenda to seize control of the nation's political space and even went on to ask for forgiveness of those he wronged, at least in the Ogun State chapter of the PDP. This is on the one hand, but on the other hand, in an apparent riposte to commentators who argued that he was already a lame duck president, in fact the VANGAURD columnist Pini Jason described him as a "dead duck", Obasanjo has tried to reclaim his old fighting self, by declaring that he was going to be in power, with all the consequences for the nation, until May 29th, 2007.

He boasted that he will not be a lame duck. In order to demons trate his intention in that respect, he has shuffled the seating order on the deck of the titanic of state power, with the removal of a few ministers and the appointment of new security chiefs. He went on a mocking exercise of asking governors to nominate his likely successors, in order to be able to get another chance to play individual actors and sections of the country against each other; deepen animosities he carefully constructed since 1999 and stoke the embers of angst that he lit in the first place. Obasanjo is clearly determined to have a last laugh, at the expense of a country that gave him a unique opportunity to lead, but whose goodwill he squandered and whose fate he toyed with in a most incompetent manner, as arguably, its worst ruler ever. If anybody doubted Obasanjo's cynicism and the incredible capacity for mischief, that person should sit up and think again, especially with the nomination of Femi Fani-Kayode, who Pini Jason once described as "the rottweiler of Aso Villa" as a minister, last week.

This nomination was an indication of the fact that Obasanjo was not sincere in his proclamations about reconciliation, because in Femi Fani-Kayode, he chose the worst expression of the side of his own persona that people in Nigeria have come to revile: the uncaring, disrespectful and insensitive. It is incroyable (as the French say!), that at a point that he should become sober, reflective and reconciliatory; at the terminal stage of his rule, when he must be seeking the forgiveness of God and of the Nigerian people for all the crimes he committed against us in the past seven years, he chose to inflict on our country, the worst example of his own rudeness on the Nigerian people, in the person of Femi Fani-Kayode.

Ujudud Sheriff was right last Tuesday, when he argued that Fani-Kayode does not deserve to be a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He does not! Femi is absolutely uncultured; he tended permanently towards the uncouth and has been incredibly rude, as a public figure. He took the description of his job as a special assistant on Public Communication to mean a licence to give short shift to whoever decided to criticize the policies and actions of President Obasanjo. He abused the privilege of the public domain to pour invectives on eminent Nigerians who dared to disagree with Obasanjo. What have Chima Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Dangiwa Umar, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, General Yakubu Gawon and General Victor Malu, have in common? They are eminent Nigerians who have contributed to the making of the Nigerian nation, they have at one time or the other criticized aspects of the policies of the Obasanjo regime, and for that, they received the opprobrium of Femi Fani-Kayode.

Fani-Kayode's tactics did not belong in the haloed environment of the Nigerian Presidency. His bolekaja and areaboy tactics, with a tendency towards what Fela Anikulapo Kuti Kuti might have described as 'Roforofo Fight' belonged more in the rough and tumble of Oshodi bus stop, then in Nigeria's arena of democratization. Femi Fani-Kayode's gung ho style helped to make far more enemies for President Obasanjo than he possibly imagined. He was seen as the representative of the worst strains of a president that held in contempt the people he ruled and whose intolerance of alternative perspectives about virtually every aspect of political life, led to an incremental erosion of the democratic space in the country over the past seven years. It was therefore unacceptable that it is such a controversial character that Obasanjo would dare to nominate as a minister of our country. Such an 'in-your-face' contemptuousness is intolerable. It is clearly an indication that Obasanjo has signaled that he wont quit the stage quietly and with a modicum of respectability. Obasanjo has decided to reward Femi Fani Kayode's rudeness and in that act, has signaled that between now and May 29th, 2007, we shall get more abuses, more rudeness and disrespect, if he is confirmed as a minister. The leopard of Femi Fani-Kayode cannot change its spots.

He does not possess the decorum, level-headedness and decency that the office of a minister requires. It is also unacceptable that Femi Fani-Kayode should even be nominated as a minister, because he does not believe in Nigeria. He has advocated the breakup of our country, he has forcefully argued for the creation of Oduduwa Republic on the ruins of Nigeria, and as someone from Kwara State, he has a particular contempt for our people and our history, advocating that those of us who are Fulani must be expelled from Kwara after they have achieved the fantasy of Oduduwa Republic. His ideas in that respect tally with the perpetrators of the Rwandan tragedy of the 1990s. Femi Fani-Kayode is a youngman, whose tragically flawed character has impelled him to extremist views and a lack of tact in the expression of such views in the public arena. His lack of decorum, disre spect for others and his inability to communicate decency in the public space make him unfit to be a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a Nigeria that he clearly does not believe in any way.

By nominating Fani-Kayode as minister, Obasanjo has clearly revealed to us the depth of his disrespect for the Nigerian people. We must be on our guard in the next eleven months, because the discredited dictator has a lot more mischief up his sleeves and might let them loose on the polity in the coming days and weeks. This need for caution does not invalidate the fact that at a strategic level, Obasanjo has been routed, he has lost the momentum and can only strike around blindly and furiously like the mortally injured snake that he truly is. The nomination of Femi Fani-Kayode as minister is an indication of the trouble soul that Obasanjo wrestles with everyday, as his days are numbered as the occupant of the Aso Villa. The man is scared about changing addresses: from Aso Villa to Yola prison.


It is truly amazing that Nigerians live each day, inundated with statistical obfuscation, about the alleged growth that Obasanjo's economic team is said to have achieved with the Nigerian economy. The utterly reactionary Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was on television on Tuesday might, at the THISDAY town hall meeting, telling us how much they have achieved in the past three years. Just last week though, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) came out with a different set of statistics, which be-lie the chest beating of the agents of imperialism of the economic team of the Obasanjo administration. The MAN report, according to THE GUARDIAN newspaper of Thursday, June 1, 2006, says that "the fortunes of the real sector of the economy, which witnessed tremendous growth in post-independence Nigeria, has fallen back to the unimpressive growth rate in the pre-independence era." The MAN report says that unless immediate steps are taken, their companies now operating far below installed capacities, would join those already out of production, the survey "compares developments in the sector during the military era and the return to democratic governance in 1999, the operators concluded that they fared better under the military regime." MAN said that "only 10 percent of manufacturing companies in the country are currently in operation, with a capacity utilization of 48.8 percent".

It further said that 60 percent of the companies are comatose while another 30 percent have closed shop. "Consequently, the sector's contribution to the nations Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had dropped from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 4.7 percent in 2003". According to the MAN report, "at independence in 1960, the contribution of the manufacturing sector to Gross Domestic Product was 3.8 percent. Notwithstanding the growing contribution and dominance of the oil sector since the 1970s, the manufacturing se ctor recorded impressive performance and contributed on the average of about 9.9 percent, while from 1975-1981, industrial capacity utilization was consistently above 70 percent mark." But what is the picture, with the 'magical wand' of the economic team's neo-liberal capitalism and surrender to imperialism? According to MAN, "the story today is different. The sector is back at the independence level. The manufacturing sector contributed 4.7 percent to GDP while industrial capacity utilization dropped to a paltry 48.8 percent". The report went further to list food, beverages and tobacco sub-sector, leather, pharmaceutical and house hold sub-sectors as those operating at sustainable levels; while the textiles, vehicle assembly, cable manufacturers, paints, steel and petrochemicals are described as ailing. As we noted here last week, the MAN survey says that only 45 companies in the textile sub-sector were still in operation, with a 64 percent reduction from the 124 companies operating in 1994.

The sector that used to be the second largest employer of labour, after government "had witnessed a 64 percent reduction in the size of its workforce over the last nine years in the tailoring and garment sub-sectors, more than one million other persons whose jobs are linked to the textile industry, such as traders and cotton farmers have lost their means of live-hood as a result of the closures". These really disturbing statistics reflect the actual effects of the policies that the Obasanjo regime's economic team has foistered on our country. The whole sale adoption of neo-liberal capitalism, has led to a gradual de-industrialisation of Nigeria. Of course they argue that new jobs are being created, such as the vendors of GSM cards that accost us at traffic lights or the petty traders selling the mass produced goods of the big capitalist concerns of Europe, America and Asia. Unfortunately, a "shopkeeper' capitalism does not help to develop the production fo rces of any country. But this shop keeper mentality is implicit in the economic choices of the Obasanjo administration.

National independence and sovereignty can be enhanced only when the state consciously directs investment into the productive sectors of the economy, this strategic level of investment cannot be achieved through a deformed, weak and comprador private sector as Nigeria has, neither can the crony capitalism of the transcorp variety, provide a bases for national development. It just does not work that way; unfortunately, the team that is driving the process today is so fixated with being part of the flow of the globalised capitalism that is eroding the entire fabric of our national productive base. They are more concerned with getting dubious ratings from imperialist agencies, fulfilling support initiatives endorsed by the IMF, than truly working for the interests of the Nigerian people. They think we are naïve, but we know that our national development cannot be achieved through implementing policies endorsed by the World Bank, IMF or the WTO, because these institutions are at the behest of the major imperialist countries, to protect the inequitable international economic relations that serve their interests and to deepen our exploitation and greater immersion in the traps of globalised capitalist exploitation, which deepen our under-development. The MAN report is an indication of how unpatriotic the economic choices of the Obasanjo regime are, and they must be uprooted to save our country.


Even the CBN first quarter report for 2006 has indicated that cross Domestic Product growth rate fell in the period under review, when compared to annual performance of the previous year. The report says that growth rate in both oil and non-oil sectors declined sharply as they stood at 4.8 percent and 2.7 percent respectively. Last year's growth rate, according to the CBN, was between five and seven percent. These new figures acco rding to VANGUARD newspaper of Wednesday, June 7, 2007 cast "doubts on the 10 percent growth target of the present administration". With the Obasanjo regime, the more you look, the less you seem to see!

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