1 September 2007

Nigeria: Yar'Adua - an Independent New Style Unfolds


Lagos — This week marks President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's first hundred days on the saddle.

In terms of the fundamentals of governance - philosophy, reform and leadership - Yar'Adua's style of leadership marks a major departure from Obasanjo's tempestuous rule. That could be his biggest achievement to date. Yet, a hundred days represent rather a fleeting parameter on which to assess performance. But in another sense, it could signpost or serve as a forerunner to the quality of the pathway a leader has defined for his journey. Louis Achi and Joseph Ushigiale examine the presidential journey so far...

What is the relationship between statesmanship and 'servant-leadership' - or statesmen and servant-leaders? The latter construct was played up by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in his inaugural speech to sell a specific non-imperial governance style. As President, Ronald Reagan held in March 8, 1985, that "The challenge of statesmanship is to have the vision to dream of a better, safer world, and the courage, persistence and patience to turn that dream into reality."

Servant leadership on the other hand, as cobbled by Yar'Adua on May 29, 2007, purports to a governance style driven by action but anchored on humility and ability to listen. Further, it holds that no matter what obstacles confront a leadership, it should have confidence and faith in its ability to overcome them. With little question, this seems to be a new approach to servicing and interpreting the Nigerian reality. Interestingly, Alan Keyes, a Republican who served in the U.S. State Department during the Reagan years and was ultimately appointed by Reagan as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations brings further relevant insight to defining statemanship.

"Statesmanship is not just a matter of coping with the political challenges of the moment, or doing well at getting elected, or even meeting immediate problems the right way. You must approach them according to an understanding - according to a set of principles - that reflects a sense of the permanent destiny of the nation

As it were, both statemanship and servant-leadership are dimensions that address leadership and the challenge of human development and the interaction of nation states. In his inaugural speech, Yar'Adua obviously keyed into Keyes and Reagan's conception of governance, perhaps with a vintage Yar'Aduan flavour.

His allusion to servant-leadership, the first to be made by any Nigerian leader before him, meant that his new administration would remarkably usher in an equally new beginning that would ensure the reversal of roles from 'Leader Servant' to 'Servant Leader.'

It was also an ambitious and precarious statement coming from a President whose electoral victory was still an issue of feverish contention. Yet, Yar'Adua was bent on taking the risk of ordering a new leadership shift to give Nigerians a new lease of life anchored on a leadership that would be honest, transparent, accountable and steadfast on rescuing the citizenry from decades of hopelessness and complacency.

He fired the zeal of the polity by pledging to lead by example, be a doer, listener and ensure that he serves with humility. With these statemanly assurances, Yar'Adua's speech did not only immediately rouse cautious optimism, but it also succeeded in rekindling the concept of Nigerianism nationwide.

Although public perception about the electoral process that ushered in Yar'Adua was negative, his inaugural speech sort of watered down these ill feelings and succeeded in rallying Nigerians to give him a chance.

To the school of optimists, it was indeed a new dawn and a reawakening for a citizenry that had for decades, taken a back seat in the decision making process and yet were at the receiving end of the same bad policies contrived by insensitive and autocratic past administrations.

Yar'Adua so far has not departed significantly from the servant leadership qualities he so eloquently spoke about during his inauguration. His style of leadership has shown him to be independent minded, quite and yet firm in all the decisions he takes.

His Seven-point Agenda

Yar'Adua captured the thrust of his administration on the 7-point agenda that formed the basis of his contract with voters during pre-election campaigns. "We will concentrate on rebuilding our physical infrastructure and human capital in order to take our country forward. We will focus on accelerating economic and other reforms in a way that makes a concrete and visible difference to ordinary people.":

Realizing that Nigerians, issuing from past experiences, have learnt to believe their leaders with a pinch of salt, Yar'Adua outlined what he said would be a road map for his administration: a 7-point development agenda.

He said the agenda formed the "basis of our contract with voters during the recent campaigns, we will concentrate on rebuilding our physical infrastructure and human capital in order to take our country forward."

Other areas of focus he said would be on accelerating economic and other reforms in a way that makes a concrete and visible difference to ordinary people.

He noted that "Our economy already has been set on the path of growth. Now we must continue to do the necessary work to create more jobs, lower interest rates, reduce inflation, and maintain a stable exchange rate. All this will increase our chances for rapid growth and development."

According to him, his administration would "concentrate on rebuilding our basic infrastructure. We already have comprehensive plans for mass transportation, especially railroad development; we will make these plans a reality."

On the problematic energy sector, the President promised to "devote our best efforts to overcoming the energy challenge. Over the next four years we will see dramatic improvements in power generation, transmission and distribution."

He also emphasised that "these plans will mean little if we do not respect the rule of law. Our government is determined to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies, especially the police. The state must fulfill its constitutional responsibility of protecting life and property."

On the lingering crisis in the Niger Delta region, he assured that "ending it is a matter of strategic importance to our country. I will use every resource available to me, with your help, to address this crisis in a spirit of fairness, justice, and cooperation.

Yar'Adua pointed out that the new administration had a "good starting point because our predecessor already launched a master plan that can serve as a basis for a comprehensive examination of all the issues. We will involve all stakeholders in working out a solution."

To protect life and property, he said "we will move quickly to ensure security of life and property, and to make investments safe."


Resolving Labour Strike

His first baptism in office was the ruthless confrontation with workers engineered by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). The union led its workers out to protest increases in prices of petroleum products and Value Added Tax (VAT) by 100 per cent.

For four days, the nation buckled under the strike and all economic activities stood still. In keeping with his words, Yar'Adua dispatched his Secretary to Government, Amb. Babagana Kingibe, to negotiate with the leadership of the NLC; at the end of the negotiations, the Federal Government rescinded its decision and made concessions far reaching enough to end the strike action and get the workers back to work.

Apart from reducing the prices of petroleum products and VAT by 50 per cent, the federal government also agreed to set up a committee including the NLC to revisit the sale of refineries particularly and other privatized property by the out gone administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The NLC, federal government face-off and quick resolution of the key issues of contention demonstrated that Yar'Adua would be a man of his words. By charting the path of dialogue and negotiation, his administration signposted that it was sensitive to the feelings of the people, was ready to listen to opposing views no matter how unpleasant. And by agreeing to revisit the privatization programme of the past regime, Yar'Adua gave a signal that no government, no matter how star-studded, knows it all. These were decisions and concessions that would never have been contemplated by any regime before him.

At this time, public cynicism was already beginning to grow about the independence of the new President.

PH/Kaduna Refineries Sale Reversal

But true to his words and in keeping with his avowed pledge to work within the rule of law and observe due process, he ordered a review of the Port Harcourt and Warri refineries' sale to Blue Star Oil Consortium. Opposition elements kicked against the sale on grounds that the two refineries were auctioned to the company at a far less value and in a less than competitive, transparent and open bidding process. Few weeks later, when it became apparent that government was set to repudiate the sale, Blue Star withdrew from the deal and government on its part obliged its request and refunded the $721m earlier paid for the refineries.

With these initial step, a glimmer of hope appeared in the horizon and it somewhat became clear that Yar'Adua would truly not tolerate business as usual. He took a more radical step by repudiating a contract hastily awarded to yet another company in the Bluestar mould, to construct health centres in the entire 774 councils. The action was informed by protests from both council chairmen and governors who complained that the said contract was signed without their consent. In repudiating the contract, Yar'Adua said he was towing the path of constitutional democracy and the rule of law. He said the deductions which had no mandate from the affected council chairmen were illegal.

Lagos State Councils Fund

He moved a step further by ordering the immediate release of about N10bn Lagos State councils' fund withheld by his predecessor. He said his legal team had advised that following, the Supreme Court's ruling ordering the release of the funds to Lagos State, it was an illegality for the federal government to continually withhold the funds. He therefore directed that the funds be released to the councils without delay.

Only penultimate week, following complaints by state governors to the presidency that they met empty treasuries in their respective states and were being weighed down further by direct deductions from the Federation Account, Yar'Adua again consulted with his legal team. The verdict: a further directive that all direct deductions from statutory allocations to states should be stopped forthwith. He said such deductions were illegal. He however directed all the financial institutions with liabilities in states to meet and discuss new payment arrangements directly with the state governments.

Niger Delta

On the lingering crisis in Niger Delta area, Yar'Adua has surpassed his predecessor through the adoption of diplomacy. Apart from facilitating through Vice President Goodluck Johnathan, the release of ex-Governor Diepreye Alamieseyeigha from prison, he has also ordered the release of Leader of Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), Asari Dokubo from prolonged detention. Specifically, he has taken far-reaching steps to initiate dialogue between government and the stakeholders with a view to bringing about lasting peace in the volatile region.

After a recent meeting between Yar'Adua and stakeholders from the region including some Niger Delta governors, with Britain and the United States of America at The Hague, Netherlands over the need to secure the oil rich Gulf of Guinea, he was upbeat and announced that the federal government is making steady progress and would bring about lasting peace shortly.

More significantly, the president has quitely delegated the vice president and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Babagana Kingibe to hold negotiations with representatives of the militants who have been agitating for improved conditions in the Niger Delta. Discussions between the group is said to have gone considerably well with the militants going back to their leaders and other stakeholders on the road map for the cessation of hostilities and development for the region.

FCT Demolitions on Hold

To underscore the human face of the administration, Yar'Adua directed the review of the on-going demolition exercise carried out by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). However, the President, after a meeting with the Executive Secretary of the FCTA, Alhaji Sani Mohammed Alhassan, directed that it ensure that due process is observed. He warned that henceforth, where there is a subsisting court injunction, the FCTA must ensure that such an injunction is vacated before it carries out the demolition exercise.

Oil Block Bids Review

In the lucrative oil sector, the new regime has bowed to pressure and has ordered the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to review the last round of oil bloc bid. The action followed petitions, from some interested parties alleging that at the twilight of the last administration, oil prospecting licences were auctioned without following due bidding processes. As in the case of the refineries, there are strong indications that Yar'Adua would not hesitate to cancel any licence that was awarded without due process.

Supreme Court Ruling on Dr. Andy Uba

Unlike in the past where judicial processes were subverted, the present administration has so far demonstrated that it would make a detour from the past. The Supreme Court ruling upturning Dr. Andy Uba's electoral victory and reinstating Governor Peter Obi to his position in Anambra State, and Yar'Adua's decision to uphold the ruling, has rekindled hope of the common man in the judiciary. Before now, court injunction and ruling even from the Supreme Court, were misinterpreted at the whims of the Presidency.

Scrapping of Duty Waivers

To checkmate sharp import and tax practices and provide a safeguard against a run on the internally generated revenue profile and the economy, the President recently stopped all forms of subsisting duty waivers and tax exemptions. Statistics from the Customs and Excise put the colossal loss recorded from these drain pipes at an estimated N235bn. Additionally, an external auditor has been commissioned to audit the tax exemptions and duty waivers granted by the last administration in the last three years.

Yar'Adua also ordered the re-opening of Ibeto Cement factory located in Port Harcourt, in Rivers State. The factory, owned by Chief Cletus Ibeto was believed to have been ordered closed by the former President.

Energy Sector reforms

In the energy sector, although nothing concrete has been achieved when weighed against public expectations, the administration appears to be studying the situation on ground before taking a decision. So far, Yar'Adua is still insisting on declaring a state of emergency in the sector in line with his earlier promise. To this end, the administration says it would take a decision after a National Council on energy stakeholders' meeting that would hold shortly. Meanwhile it has approved in principle, the establishment of nuclear power stations in the country. The nuclear power plants would come on stream by 2015. It has also scrapped the NNPC and unbundled it into fire new organisations. A national energy council to reorganise the energy sector was also set up.

Just mid last week, the Federal Government rested speculations as regards the new oil and gas policy by approving the unbundling of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) into five new organisations within the next six months.

Effectively, there will be no more NNPC and the oil section of the Ministry of Energy, will cease to exist. They will be replaced with National Oil Company and National Petroleum Directorate respectively.

The NNPC has been the biggest parastatal in Nigeria, owning 57 percent of joint venture businesses in the upstream operations.

A National Energy Council to reorganise the energy sector has also been set up. The Council, headed by the President is expected to unbundle the NNPC into five functional companies by February 2008.

However, the government was silent on the legal questions that may arise, as the NNPC is a legal entity which has equity in various projects in the oil sector, both upstream and downstream.

In the case of the power sector, the last administration sent a Power Sector Reform Bill to the National Assembly which was passed before the National Electrical Power Authority (NEPA) was scrapped and replaced by Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The Minister of State for Energy (Petroleum), Mr Henry Ajumogobia, who briefed State House correspondents after last week's Federal Executive Council meeting, named the five offshoots of the NNPC as the National Petroleum Direc-torate, the National Oil Company, the Petroleum Inspectorate Commission, the Petroleum Products Distri-bution Authority and the National Oil and Gas Assets Holding and Management Services.

Electoral Reforms

Another area that the present administration is making in-roads is in the sphere of electoral reforms. From the onset, the President, perhaps concerned by the legal controversies and public apathy from both home and abroad that have trailed his electoral victory, promised to engineer electoral reforms that would usher in free and fair elections in future.

Penultimate Tuesday, he announced a 22-man electoral panel headed by the retired Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Mohammed Uwais to chart a course for credible elections in the future. He challenged them to come up recommendations, which even if need be, the 1999 Constitution could be amended to pave the way for a truly independent electoral commission.

On anti-corruption, the restoration of prosecution autonomy to such bodies as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and allied crimes Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau are all indications that it would pursue anti-corruption to the logical end.

Shake-up in Military

Yar'Adua recently approved the retirement of all Course 13 Generals in the Armed Forces. About 40 Generals including Majors-General and Brigadiers-Generals are affected by the retirement which took effect from the end of August. The immediate fall-out of the retirements was that all the General Officers Commanding the five Divisions of the Army and TRADOC have been removed while new ones have been appointed.

Besides, the Nigerian Air Force has retired four Air Vice Marshals (AVMs) including the Air Officer Commanding the Tactical Air Command, Air Vice Marshal Nelson Dilli, and the Chief of Policy and Plans at the Defence Headquarters, Air Vice Marshal Saliu Atawodi.

Following the removal of the GOCs, new GOCs and Corp Commanders have been appointed for the Army while new Air Officers Commanding have been appointed for the Air Force.

The new appointees are Major-General A. T. Ibrahim, GOC 82 Divisions, Enugu; Major-General Dambazau, GOC 2 Division, Ibadan; Major-General Moses Obi, GOC 1 Division, Kaduna; Major-General Akinyemi is GOC 3 Division, Jos; Major-General M. C. Yerima, Military Secretary Army, and Major-General J. B. Samuel, Commandant of the Nigerian Army Artillery Corps and School.

Others include Major-General Adekegba Ovo, formerly Director of Military Intelligence, now Chief of Training and Operations at Defence Headquarters; Brigadier-General O. Role, formerly the Deputy Commandant of the National Defence College, now the Commander Army Headquarters Garrison, Abuja.

For the Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Femi Gbadebo, formerly the Air Officer Commanding Training Command, Kaduna has been appointed the new AOC Tactical Command while Air Vice Marshal C. Obierika, formerly the Air Officer in charge of Inspections at NAF Headquarters, is the new AOC Training Command.

Some of the Generals retired are Major-General Adewuyi, formerly GOC 82 Division and CTOP at DHQ; Major-General R. Ihekire, and Commandant of TRADOC and former Force Commander of African Union Force in Darfur.

The former GOCs are Majors-General Ihejirika of 81 Division, Lagos; Major-General Atawodi of 82 Division, Enugu; Major-General L. Jokotola of 1 Division, Kaduna; Major-General Joseph Oshanupin of 3 Division, Jos and Major-General Saleh of 2 Division, Ibadan.

Minister states Yar'Adua's commitment to military's devt

Meanwhile, Defence Minister, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, declared yesterday that the priority of the President's administration was to ensure a qualitative equipment and personnel such that the Nigerian Armed Forces would be able to hold thier own among their contemporaries anywhere in the world.

Trial of ex-Governors

The prevailing notion was that the promise by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute corrupt ex-governors had gone with the previous administration. But with the trial of some former governors accused of embezzling public funds, the President demonstrated that his anti-corruption stance was not just a lip service. He did not meddle in the process that eventually culminated in the remand of the ex-governors in prison and their eventual release on bail. For him, the law had to take its course. It didn't matter that they were his former colleagues. Former governors who are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission include Orji Uzor kalu, Joshua Dariye, Chimaroke Nnamani and Saminu Turaki.

A Confused AG

However, the progress so far recorded by the present administration appears to be stymied by the confusing signals that have emanated from the Presidency on some key policy issues. First, was the announcement that the President had vested control of EFCC, ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau on the Attorney General of the Federation in line with provisions in the 1999 Constitution. Not long after, the brash Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Michael Aondoakaa recanted the statement and reversed government decision, clarifying that rather than the anti-corruption agencies reporting to him, he is only expected to play a supervisory role over them. The same thing happened on the naira denomination policy announced by the CBN. The policy was later suspended by the presidency on the ground that CBN lacks the autonomy it claimed to act upon.


In all, for Yar'Adua, his hundred-day sojourn in office has been a mixed bag. But it can not be denied that considerable ground has been covered by the teacher from Katsina. It appears that he has approached the nation's troubling issues from a unique understanding - "according to a set of principles - that reflects a sense of the permanent destiny of the nation." Yar'Adua is apparently backing his famous inaugural speech by inaugural actions.

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