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Op Ed

Tinubu: Can We Continually Abide In Sin That Grace May Abound?

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Tinubu: Can We Continually Abide In Sin That Grace May Abound?

When former Lagos Governor Bola Tinubu informed President Muhammadu Buhari about his interest to succeed him in office, amongst other things, he expressed his admiration for the latter’s administrative performance, such that he said he would like to continue his ‘good works’

Tinubu, whose candidacy in the next year’s presidential election is arguably the most controversial, said the government of the day has been excellent, adding that as a matter of fact, it is miles better when compared to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s. His words: “I have the confidence, vision, and capacity to build on the foundations of Mr. President and turn Nigeria better. The past of the administration before us is being corrected by the incumbent and you can’t take away from that. By the time we came in, we did not pay the counterpart funds to start our rail lines. But today, you have the comfort of enjoying rail services from Lagos to Ibadan, you have Kaduna’s as well and other excellent infrastructures. Let us think back and be intellectually inquisitive as to the past and present and what the future holds for Nigerians.”

Going by macroeconomic indicators, such as inflation rates, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rates, lending rates, unemployment rates, and population growth rates, which economists use in ascertaining governments’ performances, it is a no-brainer to conclude that if Tinubu was not only massaging Buhari’s ego to secure his support for his long-life ambition, then it’s a foul that only succeeded in making a mockery of the government of the day. This is because since Buhari came to power under the flagship of the APC, he didn’t only fail in his promises, but also dampened the state of the economy. No wonder Nigeria ranked among the seven worst countries on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index just 19 months after he ascended to power.

Just last year, the official exchange rate of Nigeria, saw Naira, which is likely to be further devaluated as 2022 progresses, declined in value by 6.03%, as it closed at N435 per $1 on Friday, December 31. Just as it is the case of naira, unemployment has been a topical issue among several Nigerians, as the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) last estimated it at 33.3%, which indicates that at least 23 million Nigerians were without jobs. More so, under Buhari’s watch, the country experienced an extension of unstable inflationary pressure from 2020, such that at the end of Q1 2021, the 18.17% price index recorded was the highest monthly rate since 2017.

Talking of the alarming insecurity situation of the country that has displaced millions of people from their homes, seen several schools closed, and that has driven farmers away from their fields, such that food prices have increased astronomically, one would wonder how the APC chieftain concluded so easily that the works of the President have been good. And is it not more worrisome that he promised to continue from where he would stop? Ha! Was this not what Apostle Paul (a renowned character in the Bible), had in mind when he asked: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” 

If not already, the aforementioned question would sooner or later become more relative when the APC finally concludes on its preferred candidate for the highly-anticipated 2023 presidential race. Because really, what can the ruling party brag about? Is it the infrastructures that failed to address the inflation, unemployment, and insecurity crises that have brought untold hardship on millions of Nigerians? Is it the economic policies that were yet to reduce the risk of running a business in the country? I mean, what would it be?

It is, however, noteworthy to mention that as it was in the case of Buhari, Tinubu’s age and academic qualifications have been a source of concern for members of the public, particularly in recent times. How the latter tends to address these things remains unknown, at least for now. But unlike how the grace abounded for Buhari in 2015 and 2019 even despite his shortcomings (age and education) and underperformance, this writer feared that it may not be further extended for Tinubu to warm his way into people’s hearts.

Written by Damilare Famuyiwa

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Op Ed

Africa’s Richest Man Is Betting $21 Billion on Oil and Fertilizer

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Argus: Dangote Refinery Will Save Nigeria's Economy

Dangote prepares to open one of the world’s biggest crude refineries

When Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, decided to construct a refinery in southern Nigeria on a plot of swampland almost half the size of Manhattan, he turned to a man who’s helped him transform a small trading company into an industrial empire spanning the continent.

For 30 years, Devakumar Edwin has navigated some of the world’s most difficult business environments to build Dangote’s textile factories, flour mills, food plants and cement firms. Now he is overseeing its biggest project yet: a $20.5 billion oil refinery and fertilizer complex.

The investment is so loaded with superlatives that Edwin reels them off like a shopping list: the biggest crude refinery of its kind in the world; the world’s third-largest fertilizer maker and second-biggest producer of urea; the largest investment ever made in Nigeria; a pair of plants so huge in scope he had to create one of the world’s largest construction companies to develop them.

For Dangote it provides the possibility of dominating the refined-petroleum-products sector the way he has cement and sugar, two markets he effectively controls — with the help of friendly government policy — in Africa’s biggest economy.  It will cater to demand for fossil fuels that’s expected to grow on the continent in the coming decades, even as the rest of the world moves to decarbonize.

Drive some three hours east through the traffic-snarled streets of Lagos, Africa’s largest city, and you reach the entrance to the complex, where the skyline becomes a maze of cranes and pipes, fuel-storage tanks the size of city blocks, and steel columns the height of high-rise buildings. Set atop nearly 10 square miles of land, the petrochemical complex is shrouded by a hazy mixture of dust kicked up by hundreds of construction vehicles crisscrossing the site and the humid equatorial air on Nigeria’s coast.

The venture is Dangote’s most audacious attempt to profit from the monumental inefficiency of Africa’s largest oil producer. Mismanagement, under-investment, dilapidated or non-existent infrastructure, violence, endemic corruption and theft of an almost unfathomable magnitude have left Nigeria with an entirely broken business model.

While oil and gas sales typically account for about 90% of Nigeria’s export earnings, the state receives a relatively modest sum from the trade – less than $8 billion in 2020, according to the country’s Budget Office. The government’s potential benefits from the industry are further eroded by rampant crude theft – as much as 150,000 barrels per day, according to the government, which is about $5.5 billion a year at current prices. Because Nigeria lacks refining capacity, the state energy company swaps crude – about  a quarter of the country’s entire output last year – for imported gasoline, which it then subsidizes so that pump prices are among the lowest in the world – about 40 cents a liter.

Before building the sprawling complex, Edwin had to construct roads, a port and two power plants, more than doubling costs from the initial $8 billion estimate and delaying its completion by six years. He spent two years and $300 million pumping 65 million cubic meters of sand onto the project site to raise its altitude by 1.5 meters, shoring up the investment against a potential future rise in sea levels caused by global warming.  Observers have also attributed the delays to Dangote acting as its own engineering, procurement and construction contractor, taking on responsibility usually delegated to the likes of Saipem SpA or KBR Inc., in building a facility far more complex than a cement plant.

“I haven’t gone on vacation for more than three years,” the 65-year-old executive, who hails from Tirunelveli in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, said in a March 31 interview at the project site. “Now it’s seven days a week work.”

The facility is now nearing completion, including a $2.5 billion urea plant that began operations last month and is already shipping products to the U.S., India and Brazil. Once the refinery starts output, the company plans to list them separately, “probably on the London Stock Exchange,” Edwin said, declining to give any information on expected timing. Dangote has long talked about a secondary listing on the LSE for his cement company, the biggest producer in Africa, but has repeatedly pushed it back, most recently until 2023.

The 650,000 barrel-per-day capacity refinery is scheduled to come on stream in the fourth quarter, Edwin said. After meeting President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja last week, Dangote said he expects the Nigerian leader to commission the plant before his term expires in May 2023.

Once operational, Edwin says the refinery can quickly ramp up to 90% of capacity. The IMF in a February report estimated that it would produce 50,000 barrels-a-day in 2022 and hit 300,000 per day by 2026. Just 60% of the facility’s output can meet all of Nigeria’s fuel consumption needs — potentially making the nation self-sufficient in refined petroleum products for the first time. 

Edwin projects that the combined value addition that the urea and petroleum facilities bring will have “a large impact” on Nigeria’s $432 billion economy. He said export proceeds will also support the naira, which Nigeria’s central bank has devalued three times over the past two years.

“Once the refinery comes in fully, I don’t expect the currency to slide any further against the dollar,” Edwin said, though few economists agree. “There is every possibility the currency can strengthen.” 

Export earnings from the complex will meet the entire foreign-exchange needs of the Dangote Group, eliminating one of the biggest sources of dollar demand in Nigeria, he said. The project also means the government will no longer need to send hard currency out of the country to pay for refined products, he said.

Despite Edwin’s enthusiasm, the project won’t be a panacea for all of Nigeria’s economic woes. The refinery won’t address the Nigerian government’s inability to profit from the surge in oil prices this year. The OPEC member is unable to meet its production quotas, partly due to massive pipeline theft, and if the subsidy remains, costs for the government are more likely to rise than fall even when the refinery opens.

Large sections of the pipeline network in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger River delta are unprotected, passing through labyrinthine creeks far from the reach of authorities. Where militant groups once blew up the installations in an armed campaign against oil companies and the government, today tankers of crude are stolen relatively peacefully.

If Dangote’s refinery relied on pipelines, says Edwin, “I wouldn’t get any of my oil.” So he built the facility to receive oil only via ship, and to deliver it only via road and sea.

Edwin brushed off questions on the wisdom of investing tens of billions in an oil refinery at a time when the world is decarbonizing. Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to lag the rest of the world in both renewable energy and electric vehicles, he said.

But the company has abandoned plans to double refinery capacity, with forecasts showing that demand for fossil fuels will remain flat at best. It does plan to expand its fertilizer business, which is booming because of the impact of the war in Ukraine — a key supplier of the crop nutrient.

Dangote plans to acquire mining licenses in either Senegal, Togo, the Republic of Congo or Democratic Republic of Congo to produce phosphates for the fertilizer expansion. It also has plans to explore potash opportunities in the two Congos, Edwin said. Those plans will be fleshed out once he’s achieved the immediate target of getting the refinery operating this year.

“I’ll take my vacation after we start,” he said.

Source: Bloomberg

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Op Ed

Jonathan and the 2023 Shoe Lenders

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Police Ask Retirement Of CSO Of Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan rode to power in 2011 on the strength of popular national support, particularly from younger voters. But barely eight months in office, then presidential spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati had concluded that Jonathan was being unfairly harangued by the media and certain stakeholders. He located these harsh criticisms in “the circumstances of President Jonathan’s emergence: how he was the underdog without shoes that nobody gave a chance, the man that everyone helped all the way to the throne, and now that he is there, he no longer remembers those who made him king!” In what he wrote as a rejoinder to the column by Chief Dele Momodu (Bob Dee), Abati concluded that President Jonathan “asks for one favour: the ‘shoe-givers’ should allow him to walk with the shoes and effectively implement his agenda for national transformation…”   

That metaphor of the ‘shoe giver’ by Abati became the central thesis of my column, ‘The Borrowed Shoes’ a few days later, (on 9th February 2012) and I used Tunde Kelani’s film, ‘Agogo Eewo’ (The Gong of Taboo) to illustrate my point. ‘Agogo Eewo’ (where the allegory of a dancer and some shoe givers was deployed) is a sequel to ‘Saworoide’ which ended with the death of the military usurper, Lagata. In the movie, the process of installing a new king was hijacked by two corrupt but powerful chiefs within the community who imposed a prince they thought they would be able to manipulate. But the moment their man was enthroned, the falcon could no longer hear the falconer. The new king started by curtailing the excesses of his wife who wanted to exercise the powers of a ‘First Lady’. Having won the battle at the home front, the monarch began to deal with the rot within the community to the consternation of these corrupt chiefs who decided to fight back.   

While still perplexed about how to handle the chiefs, the king had a dream in which a sage recounted to him the story of a poor but very good dancer who went for a dancing competition with borrowed shoes. Distracted by the ‘shoe-givers’, he decided to call their bluff by dancing barefooted. This show of defiance so impressed the crowd that people began to offer the dancer their shoes. The moral of the story, as I explained more than ten years ago, is that the king had a choice to make: either embrace self-serving ‘shoe givers’ or pitch tent with the people.   

As I reflect on the exchange between Abati and Momodu as well as my own intervention at the time, recent events in the polity offer new perspectives on the allegory of the dancer and the shoe lenders. Last Friday, supporters of President Jonathan besieged his Abuja office, demanding that he declare interest in the 2023 presidential election. Responding to the agitators, Jonathan said: “The political process is ongoing; just watch out. The key role you must play is that Nigeria must get somebody that will carry young people along.” Barely 48 hours later, Abati tweeted: “Jonathan set to declare for 2023 presidency under APC.” And there has been no official denial of the report.   

“In politics,” according to former American President, Franklin D Roosevelt, “nothing happens by accident. If it does, you can bet it was planned that way.” To that extent, we can conclude that the placard-carrying persuaders at Jonathan’s residence were acting on behalf of powerful ‘shoe givers’. But I see a problem here. Since 1999, Jonathan has been a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under which he served as deputy governor and governor in Bayelsa State as well as vice president and ultimately president of Nigeria. He was defeated in 2015 by the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari who flew the flag of the then main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) cobbled together by a number of strange bedfellows. That same party—where more than a dozen titans are currently jostling for the presidential ticket—is where we are told Jonathan wants to actualize his aspiration.    

Let’s be clear, Jonathan has not officially thrown his hat into the ring. And all the talk about joining APC remains speculative. But should he eventually dance to the tune of the persuaders, here are five scenarios that could play out. One, Jonathan could join the APC, obtain a waiver to contest the presidential primaries and lose. That would be humiliating and not a few people would condemn the opportunism of such a failed attempt. Two, as improbable as it may seem, party undertakers could force the ‘consensus’ option of Jonathan as flagbearer on the APC. This would require a presidential sleight of hand of maximum proportion. Will Buhari do that? I doubt. Three, should that happen, and Jonathan becomes the presidential candidate of the ruling party, there is a possibility that he could lose the election. That would also result in great reputational damage for the former president. Four, Jonathan could contest as APC’s candidate and defeat whomever is fielded by the main opposition PDP. While some may argue that only the end justifies the means, I will come to this point shortly. Five, although I am not a lawyer, I am aware that there is also a legal angle to Jonathan’s aspiration that is quite unclear. Should he decide to join the presidential race, I foresee a situation in which some people may approach the court for the interpretation of Section 137 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (4th alteration) signed into law on 11th June 2018 by President Buhari. It states that “A person who was sworn-in to complete the term for which another person was elected as president, shall not be elected to such office for more than a single term.”

Meanwhile, I do not subscribe to the notion that Jonathan should not accept the APC offer on grounds that the ruling party has spent the past seven years demonizing him. For me, that is precisely what makes the ticket attractive. A combination of the way he conceded in 2015 even before the result was declared, his educational background and relatively young age have helped to raise the global profile of Jonathan. At home, many of his clever supporters are already selling the idea that the APC Mandarins have suddenly realized how difficult the job of running Nigeria is hence they are now begging Jonathan to come back and rescue the country from the mess they (APC members) have created. So, if I were a Jonathan handler and had the option of choosing for him the platform to return as president, the APC would be ideal. If only to permanently shut the mouths of his traducers!

This now brings me to the implications of the foregoing scenarios. In my presentation at the annual conference of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Lagos Chapter last October, I illustrated my point with the famous refrain by Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo. Whenever he calls me on phone as he regularly does: “Owo yin ni Nigeria de ku si bayi. Awa ti se ti wa” (Nigeria is now in the hands of your generation. Members of my generation have done our bit). But apparently not satisfied with telephone conversations, Adebanjo (who clocked 94 on 10th April) had been persistent in saying we needed to see. On 8th March this year, I heeded that invitation by going to Lagos and returning to Abuja immediately after our session that lasted about three hours. Quite naturally, our discussion centred on the past, present and future of Nigeria and we agreed to disagree on many issues, as they say. To put it mildly, the elder statesman can be quite rigid about his convictions. But I was not surprised when, after a meeting of socio-political groups from different parts of the country, Adebanjo said the Igbo people should produce the president of Nigeria in 2023 in the interest of equity, justice, and fairness. That was the same argument he canvassed at my session with him and it was an issue on which we both agreed. But Adebanjo also added something on Tuesday: “The unfortunate thing is that President Goodluck Jonathan allowed himself to be disgraced by mentioning the fact that he was considering whether to be president. For what?”   

That should mean something to Jonathan’s handlers. As president, Jonathan enjoyed more support from the Southeast than any other part of the country. With Adebanjo and Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark on the train of those who argue that in the interest of equity in the distribution of opportunities in a plural society such as ours it is the turn of the Southeast, how does the aspiration of Jonathan fit into this clamour? Even if, as Senator Orji Kalu has already concluded, the Southeast may not get the slot in 2023, a formal bid by Jonathan could be considered a plot in the efforts to scuttle it. Especially given reports of the cold calculation by a number of hegemons that the main attraction is the former president being the only southerner who is statute-barred from seeking a second term should he win.

As things stand, most southern politicians can see the sectional machination behind the sponsored lobby to have President Jonathan back. And it will be vehemently resisted by APC aspirants who include the sitting vice president. Other leading politicians who facilitated the formation of the APC will also view the co-opting of Jonathan as a grand betrayal by Buhari should it happen. They are likely to immediately gang up against the former president. In the aftermath, the party will implode and splinter. At the end, even if these political undertakers succeed in their plot, a Jonathan presidency under such a compromised arrangement will be seen as a gross betrayal and cultural exploitation by people of the Southeast who have always stood by him.  

For sure, Jonathan has a right to contest the 2023 general election should he decide to. And it is also within his right to choose the political platform under which he believes he can actualize such a dream. But Jonathan is a former president who has risen beyond relying on the benevolence of ‘anonymous’ northern governors for his ambition. There are a few questions the former president may therefore need to ponder: Should he make himself vulnerable to the machination of shoe lenders who may be using him for the actualisation of their own nefarious agenda? Can he seek the presidency on his own terms? Will the rewards of such a political adventure outweigh the costs? 

This now brings me back to dancing. It is a serious art form, a meaningful ritual, and a culturally significant pursuit which a ‘naughty’ legal luminary (now of blessed memory) once described as the ‘vertical expression of a horizontal desire’. Randy Laistis, a professor of English at Goodwin University in Connecticut, United States, reminds us in his essay, ‘What do shoes do?’ that footwear can sometimes stand as a symbol of identity or as a synecdoche of the wearer. “To talk about being in someone’s shoes or to think about what it’s like to walk a mile in someone’s shoes, even to imagine that you have some big shoes to fill, is to contemplate stepping into a different identity – as if the shoes, not the person wearing them, determines who you are.”    

To extrapolate, it can be dangerous to build a political career or nurture a serious ambition on the benevolence of shoe lenders. They do not always mean well, as we saw in ‘Agogo Eewo’ and as Abati also alluded in his 2012 intervention. Therefore, President Jonathan should carefully examine the motives of those who are trying so hard to lend him their shoes for the 2023 general election. I sincerely do not believe it is in his interest to dance to their tune!

By Olusegun Adeniyi

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Op Ed

Why Alaafin, Makinde fell out, monarch’s regret until death — Columnist

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Festus Adedayo

The relationship between the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, and the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, was not that cordial until the monarch joined his ancestors on Friday.

This was revealed in the weekly column of a former Editor with the Tribune titles, Festus Adedayo, on Sunday.

According to the revered columnist, Oba Adeyemi knew and revealed before the 2019 elections that produced Makinde that information at his disposal was that the then Peoples Democratic Party candidate was going to emerge victorious.

Adedayo, however, said he did not know who changed the mind of the monarch from backing Makinde for the election.

He wrote: “In 2019 again, it was time to pitch his tent with a gubernatorial candidate in Oyo State.

“Alaafin invited me from Lagos, where I was a student of the Nigerian Law School.

“He then took me to a section of the palace that I had never been to before.

“Donning his pyjamas that morning, he confided in me that he had made his personal investigations and concluded that Seyi Makinde would win the election and he was ready to support him.

“I was shocked to learn thereafter that some persons persuaded him otherwise.

“It affected his relationship with the governor, which he lamented, till his death.”

Adedayo said it had always been the practice of Alaafin to correctly gauge the political mood of the state and support the candidate the people are rooting for.

He explained how his support for a late Governor of the state, Abiola Ajimobi, won the governorship seat for the then candidate of the All Progressives Congress in 2011 and his reelection in 20215: “Alaafin had challenges with Governors Lam Adesina, Rasidi Ladoja and Adebayo Alao-Akala.

“He gave me the most granular information of the roles he performed in the tiffs with these governors.

“By 2015, especially the moment leading to the general elections, Alaafin and Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s relationship had gone sour.

“Goodluck Jonathan had begun to make overtures to traditional rulers.

“Ajimobi had gone to the UK when Alaafin called me, demanding that we had a mutual resolve on where he was heading politically.

“I called Governor Ajimobi to intimate him of Alaafin’s quest, careful to beat the possibility of tale-bearers parroting my ‘clandestine’ visit to the palace to him.

“Ajimobi gave me the go-ahead to meet the monarch.

“At the meeting in the palace, Alaafin articulated his coterie of grouses against Ajimobi to me.

“He told me that, in company with his late friend, Azeez Arisekola-Alao, he launched one of the most penetrating artilleries against Alao-Akala, even selling his house in the UK in the process.

“Ajimobi, he alleged, took all these for granted and never reciprocated the gesture.

“When it was time to address him, I prostrated.

“I told him that my loyalty was to him, as it was to Ajimobi, but I owed him the need to tell the absolute truth.

“I told Alaafin that Ajimobi had the greatest regard for him.

“I proceeded further to tell the king that the governor, at many fora, told me that, but for Alaafin, he wouldn’t probably have emerged governor in 2011.

“Alaafin went beyond the ken of his traditional role in his support for Ajimobi in 2011, so much that if Alao-Akala had won that election, he would have deposed him, so said Ajimobi to me, which he expressed as: ‘Alaafin taa tan ni!’

“I reminded Alaafin that I was privy to conversations between the king and his aides – late Prince Fehintola and Hon Kamil Akinlabi – during the 2011 elections when, at the thick of the announcement of the gubernatorial results and he wasn’t sure where the pendulum was swinging, he asked his aides to tell him the truth, giving them indications that he could commit suicide if Alao-Akala won.

“‘Kabiyesi, you are the king of the Yoruba people, you cannot work against your people, both at the state and national level.’”

“That settled the matter between Alaafin and Ajimobi.

“From that moment on, they became the best of friends.”

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