Where “change” begins in Nigeria

By Bunmi Makinwa


President Buhari hands over ‘Change Begin With Me’ flag to Alhaji Mohammed (thenewsnigeria.com.ng)

The “change begins with me” campaign of the federal government of Nigeria is running into obstacles. One of the latest undesirable hitches is plagiarism of President Obama’s speech in the text of President Buhari’s statement delivered at the recent launch. News, opinions, reports, commentaries and jokes in print, electronic and online media are full of subtle and scathing attacks on the campaign.

A major argument of some critics is that change begins with the leadership that had promised change but is backpedaling on its responsibility for it, and turning it over to the populace. Another line of criticisms is that the targeted change is undefined, nebulous and opaque. The nuts and bolts of “change begins with me”, it is argued, are as unclear as many policy issues that the President Buhari administration pursues. Put together, the contextual issues around change do not align with the new campaign.

In communication theories, change is a well-trodden area. Human communication is replete with uses of communication to effect change of knowledge, attitudes, practice and behavior. Change communication underlies the intellectual discourse of behavior and social modifications as a critical step towards change. The “change begins with me” campaign, whether stated or not, is premised on the thesis that change of behavior by Nigerians can and should result in change of the Nigerian society. The behavior change of citizens will, over time, aggregate to social change of the Nigerian nation. It is, theoretically, a solid basis to build an action programme. This must have been what Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had in mind.

It is widely accepted that change of behavior, and ultimately change of society, is complex. It is hardly linear. It requires collaboration of communication with sociology, psychology, anthropology and related fields of human interactions. Extensive studies in change communication show that “good intentions” are far from adequate. In other words, no matter, how well intentioned a change idea is, it does not by fiat materialize into acceptance by the community or society where the change is advantageous or sensible.

In development communication, examples of good intentions leading to bad outcomes are soberly common. Whether it is smoking, driving while intoxicated or use of seat belts, change of habits and behavior is arduous. For example, health promotion campaigns that focused on negative health impacts of smoking achieved little for decades. Facts on the nefarious health effects did not discourage reasonable, knowledgeable smokers. The breakthrough came in many countries by making smoking appear so “un-cool”, unfashionable, repulsive, anti-social to “right –thinking” persons. And it was combined with treatment medications, psychosocial approaches, alongside policies and legislation that made cigarettes expensive; smoking was barred from public spaces; and smokers were restricted to corner spaces of undesirability.

Campaigns against driving whilst intoxicated are witnessing increasing successes in countries that combine special attention to what should be done when one drinks – designate a driver who does not drink alcohol at that occasion, have colleagues monitor each other’s alcohol consumption levels, have bar tenders take charge and restrict drunk drivers, use taxis to return home – with stringent checks by police officers as people leave parties and drinking places. Tough legislations penalize drunk driving, including heavy fines, temporary or permanent ban from driving.

Advertisers and marketers, to mention a few, use change communication extensively to create acceptance of new products, or to effect change from existing services to newly available ones. It works.

Success in change of behavior and society is grounded in theoretical understanding of people and society, and adaptation of knowledge from empirical studies. Behaviour modification and change does not happen quickly. There are short, medium and long term phases, and some successes can be recorded, even in the short term phase when norms begin to be questioned and re-ordered.

Without enough understanding of the work – theories, studies, processes – that inform Nigeria’s “change begins with me” campaign, it is difficult to say much about it. However, given the official actions and criticisms of it, some points are well in order.


A poster of leading opposition All Progressive Congress presidential candidate Mohammadu Buhari and deputy Yemi Osinbajo (www.news24.com.ng)

President Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party was voted in on the platform of “change”. The massive voters’ support confirmed that change was awaited and would be supported. How will change occur? The first positive signal is that the leadership should demonstrate change.

Whilst the government, during its 16-month tenure, succeeded convincingly in dealing decisively with Boko Haram, it is yet to show that it can deal with security in its many ratifications. See how long it took to have any serious official pronouncement on herdsmen who ravage farms and villages, kill and maim people.

Also, whilst government struggles to rein in the spreading kidnap menace, the Niger Delta insurgents appear to thrive under various names. And the initial official commitment to locate the abducted Chibok Girls has fallen by the wayside. Rather, the Police harass peaceful protesters who serve as a constant beacon of the historic tragedy bleeding the nation.

Corruption, another pillar of the campaign manifesto of the government, has seen some positive efforts at curbing it. But even the consternation and anger of people as revelations of massive looting were revealed is now being dulled by time and inconclusive lengthy processes that drag on. It is apparent that some officials, especially civil servants and law enforcement agents, are falling back willfully into old ways of public bribe-taking and oppression of the people for the slightest reasons. Not only national budgets are “padded” under the nose of the change leadership, contracts are being padded heavily again. The fight against corruption is being cast as “Buhari’s thing”. His immediate entourage, collaborators and, especially, state governments are not even remotely part of any obvious anti-corruption efforts.

The dark cloud that covers the nation right now is economic and financial difficulty. It hangs like a giant elephant tusk on the neck of the masses and so-called middle class. It drags people down, into anger, intolerance and hopelessness. The people want to hear more on how and when it will change.

Candidly, everything seems right about the wording and need for “change begins with me”. But political communication of contradictory verbal and non-verbal exchange is problematic. The entirety of change should be manifested in many more areas and should be read, heard, seen, and interpreted – without doubt. The government, with its main pillars of change agenda in doubtful suspense, cannot expect its subjects to trust that it can lead or sustain change.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership and former Africa head of United Nations Population Fund


Donald Trump: Not Good for America, or the World

By Bunmi Makinwa

Abrasive, accusative, aggressive and abusive, Donald Trump at initial stage of primaries for a Republican Party nominee for president of the United States, seemed a joke. He was notorious for having insisted that President Barack Obama was not born in the USA. As the number of contestants increased in the primaries, Trump was expected to drop out. Surprisingly, he kept on waxing stronger. Unopposed, he was nominated as presidential candidate of the party. He had sent his 14 rivals crashing out one after the other.

Donald Trump & Senator Ted Cruz (via slate.com)

The primaries witnessed unforgettable profane language, mainly dished out by Trump against his opponents. For example, he characterized former Governor Jeb Bush as having “low energy” and was “Dumb as a rock!”. Senator Ted Cruz did not know whether to laugh or cry when Trump posted an unattractive picture of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, juxtaposed against that of Melania, his supermodel wife. To Carly Florina, the only woman in the group, Trump said: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that as the face of our next president?” Senator Marco Rubio had taken to calling Trump “Big Don” whilst he was “Little Marco” to Trump, a thinly veiled reference to their exchange earlier on sizes of their masculine organs. Trump’s supporters hailed him as authentic, straight and not corrupted by the establishment. But around the world, media reports and many world leaders could not comprehend how Trump could be America’s best candidate for any office, least of all aspiring to become president of USA.

In December 2015, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron disagreed with Trump’s comments on London police, and called them “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.” Then Mayor of London Boris Johnson said that they “were ill-informed”. Sadiq Khan, who later became Mayor of London, said Trump “can’t just be dismissed as a buffoon – his comments are outrageous, divisive and dangerous”. Britain, the closest ally of USA is hardly known to express such official views on American presidential candidates.

But Trump was unusual and his personality draws ire, as it attracts unwavering following. “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Pope Francis said of Trump. “His discourse is so dumb, so basic,” said Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Mexican President Enrique Pena said, “That’s the way Mussolini arrived and the way Hitler arrived.” “Trump is an irrational type,” said Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei. The numerous world leaders who admonished Trump included French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Isaac Herzog, Israeli opposition leader, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls, and Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen.

Somehow, those who cried,”No” were drowned out by the “Yes” noise. Trump’s increasing high opinion poll in the USA was surprising, to put it mildy. Fawning crowd filled his campaign gathering.

Donald Trump at a rally in Dallas, Texas (via decodedc.com)

How could a country that has so much to offer be imprisoned by such limited viewpoints? America has produced more breakthrough research findings, more discoveries, more knowledge in almost any field of human endeavour, than the rest of the world combined. It is the country with the largest foundations, charitable organizations that give to causes and people in lands that some of the donors have no idea whether they actually exist. It is the land of refuge for most people where needs and hopes are met in more ways than they ever imagined. Yet Trump was against outsiders, tolerance and collaboration.

America is a democracy. It was founded and built on the notion of freedom, unfettered and unlimited, except by agreement in areas that are institutionalized. It is a country where to be yourself is real. And what is different is right…unless it is wrong.

The tension between theory and practice of democracy finds all kinds of expressions in peoples and places all over America. Trump is the “kick-arse” American. Loud, brazen, daring and with a must-win compulsion. Even when he loses he makes it look like he wins. Tony Schwartz, co-author of Donald Trump’s autobiography, said in The New Yorker magazine that if he were writing The Art of the Deal today, he would have titled the book The Sociopath. “Lying is second nature to him…More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true,” said Schwartz.

It is not what the world says or thinks that will stop Trump. The strongest opponent of Donald Trump is the phenomenon that Donald Trump represents, and that he champions. Among his unhinged believers it is necessary to be daring, angry, even obscene and, why not, fascist.

American Presidential Candidate Donald Trump (via thehawkeye.com)

There are many reasons why Trump’s election as president of USA is a major problem for America’s leadership position in the world. Here are five reasons his victory cannot make America great again.

Firstly, beyond the notion that a character of his type can emerge from a most admirable country, it would confirm that through a democratic expression of votes, such a leader could indeed be accepted. Trump, repulsive as he may be, would become the face of “real” America.

Secondly, it would legitimize the use of crude, abusive language in American campaign politics at a level never witnessed in the modern era, and perhaps ever before. Trump as presidential candidate during TV broadcast denigrated a female journalist, Megyn Kelly; mocked a handicap journalist at a campaign rally; dismissed the service of a most respected veteran of the Vietnam war, Senator John McCain; and disrespected parents who lost their son fighting a war for his country.

Thirdly, it would confirm that being a bully is normal, accepted, even admired by most Americans.

Fourthly, it will undermine the two-party system which is the basis of America’s politics. Trump has fragmented the Republican Party. His victory would help him consolidate the division and effectively he would re-mould the party as his new empire. Such a situation would render very difficult coalescence around the middle range where balance is attained; where neither far left nor far right can dominate, and where both right and left converge in elections that have been won in turns over time almost rhythmically by Democrats and Republicans..

Fifthly, Trump as president would put to rest the belief that a woman could reach the highest political office in the USA. Despite criticisms of her, Hillary Clinton has had the best preparation and experience that can be required for the presidency. Absent Clinton, the political horizon is not replete with strong possible female contenders. Not only would Trump’s triumph, if it happened, kill the enthusiasm generated by Clinton as a possible next president, it will send a message that the country is not prepared for such a change.

The 1920 presidential election was the first in which women were permitted to vote in every state, more than a century after men had dominated political life of the country. It may then take about two centuries before a woman would emerge as president.
Within the Republican Party, many have dissociated themselves from Trump and would like to see the end of the phenomenon that he extols. His attackers call him “insane”, “reckless”, “unfit”, “temperamental”, “racist”. He is seen as lacking patience, curiosity, knowledge, character, and balance. The surge against him from within is the force that can destroy the Trump phenomenon.

The view that Trump and his views represent America is not false, nor is it correct. This is the crux of the matter. In fact, it is the paradox of the country’s democracy. America is like the pendulum of grandfather clock. It swings between two tendencies, right and left. But it does not hit the walls of the clock.

Institutional Strengthening and Sustainable National Development in Nigeria: The “Rule of Law” Imperative

By Olufemi Olarewaju

“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” – Charles Darwin.

According to the World Bank, the total economic value of natural assets was $44 trillion worldwide, or $7,000 per person on average, while “intangible” capital accounted for the greatest component of total wealth – worth a massive $540 trillion worldwide in 2005. Yet the developing nations of sub-Saharan Africa especially, have historically viewed wealth from the prism of their stock of natural capital. Sustained growth as evidenced by improved livelihoods for the citizens of these countries remains a mirage. Fact is that natural capital is useful and will contribute to increasing wealth and well-being of nations only if it is well managed.

oil production

This is particularly critical for resource-rich (oil) nations like Nigeria where the resource in fact becomes the source of diversion that moves attention away from fragility of local institutions. The oil (in this case) creates the illusion of wealth and therefore wealth gets measured from the prism of maximizing its transaction potentials (produce more, sell more, sell high). For Nigeria, natural capital as percentage of total wealth of the nation, mostly represented by its hydrocarbon activities, sat at a whopping 147% in 2000. This may be a classic symptom of the very well documented concept of “resource curse.”

The totality of the wealth of a nation has 3 key inputs; the nation’s produced wealth (e.g. infrastructure), natural wealth (e.g. oil and gas) and intangible wealth (e.g. human capital and quality of institutions). Worldwide natural capital accounts for 5% of total wealth, while produced capital and intangible capital account for 18% and 77% of total wealth respectively, making intangible capital, in fact, the true wealth component of “wealthy” nations. It is worthy of note that the richest countries of the OECD are characterized by high intangible capital and low natural capital, while the poorest countries of sub-Sahara Africa are characterized by high natural capital and lower intangible capital. Explaining 90% of the variations of intangible capital are human capital and the rule of law index.

For nations like Nigeria therefore, mitigating risks and reducing barriers to sustained development must be driven by efforts to increase stock of intangible wealth. We have to urgently and actively redefine our measure of wealth and development by strengthening human capital and local institutions. This is only possible through strengthening of the rule of law. A critical look at most rule of law indexes reveal that the lowest quintile are populated by developing countries and yet these developing countries have carried out different measures – particularly by transplanting the laws and legal systems from developed countries – to modernize their legal system, but they have usually not been successful. These may be a summary of the situation of Nigeria where despite seemingly best efforts there is a certain culture of disrespect for the rule of law.

The failure of rule of law to effectively impact on the institutions of governance in Nigeria may largely be due to the institutional and cultural differences that exist between the developed countries whose laws and systems Nigeria has tried to transplant in the past and the peculiar realities of the Nigerian state. There is no single prescription for development for all countries and, hence, proper measures that fit the institutions of each country should be taken to realize economic growth. Properly extracting the necessary lessons in this regard may require a type of justice reform that involves complex intellectual capacity derived from a vibrant engagement of the combined input of local legal human resource and academic base that is certainly not lacking in Nigeria, but of which utilization has been painfully inadequate in the country’s policy process.

Such a process and people as described in the preceding paragraph will not necessarily have to reinvent the wheel. The effort will be tasked with the responsibility of articulating pathways to repositioning how the country define, measure and articulate wealth and development. It has to provide pathways through which institutions can be strengthened as a means of growing the country’s intangible capital, of which the rule of law is the largest, strongest and most impactful component. The role of the rule of law in the following national development imperatives will necessarily guide the enquiries of a justice reform effort:

1. Eradication of poverty: “Poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. The Rio+20 outcome reiterated the commitment to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency.” (UN SDG)

2. Natural resource management: “changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development.” As articulated in previous paragraphs, effective management of the country’s natural capital represents the strongest contributions to increasing the stock of its intangible capital.

3. Human resource development: How can the nation engender emergence of a large community of citizen decision-makers able to initiate and harness the vast intellectual resource base necessary to drive sustainable development processes?

4. Development of “produced capital” and improvement of “property rights”: As mentioned, produced capital include structures and infrastructure available in the country. It forms a strong component of the enabling environment (e.g., power, transportation networks). Development of strong produced capital is in the purview of the private sector. Mechanisms are needed to encourage private sector actors to take active roles in developing produced capital, which will mean contributing to shaping of government policies. Strong property rights laws is an imperative here.

5. Protection of human rights and law enforcement: On the platform of entrenched human right protection efforts is the need to enforce the law and punish crime with no prejudice.

These 5 requirements for solutions-based effort towards justice reform for Nigeria are not exhaustive. They however begin to introduce a focused approach to achieving the ultimate outcome of improving the country’s stock of intangible capital, a surer and only way of measuring and articulating the true wealth of any nation. A high intangible capital mitigates against the resource curse, for example, by diverting attention away from the resource and placing attention on how the resource is managed as a contributor to the livelihood of the people. A true and focused contextual reframing of the Rule of Law represent the only way to achieve this developmental imperative for Nigeria, and in fact for sub-Sahara Africa.

Intangible Capital is by far the strongest contributor to the sustained wealth of a nation. For Nigeria and her quest for sustainable development, true focus, as a matter of urgency, has to be put into increasing the nation’s stock of intangible capital, of which strengthening of the Rule of Law is the most critical component. The 2014 index of the World Justice Project ranks Nigeria very low on almost all of the Rule of Law components, invalidating the position of successive civilian governments in Nigeria that have always held respect for, and promotion of the rule of law as their governing mantra. The current administration is presented with yet another opportunity at validation.


Dr Olufemi Olarewaju is Director and Co-founder of the Sustainability School Lagos. He is also an Associate Lecturer at the Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law, University of Ibadan. olufemi.olarewaju@sustainabilityschool.com.ng

Donald Trump Versus the United Nations and the African Union

By Bunmi Makinwa

Invariably, the conversations on elections amongst Africans at home and in the diaspora centre on supposed Republican party candidate Donald Trump and the fears that he represents regarding the November 2016 USA presidential election. If Africans could vote from wherever they are, Mr. Trump would lose massively. His divisive rhetorics, ill-informed attacks on minorities and immigrants, and his lack of tolerance for differences run counter to the nature of Africans. Suddenly, the USA seems like a scary place, full of hate. The presumptive democratic party candidate Hilary Clinton looks like a goddess who brings rains during a serious drought, in comparison to Mr. Trump.

Donald Trump

Whilst the world and Africa’s attention is on the American election, two other elections that have as much implication on African economic, political and social well-being are in full steam. The new Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) will be decided in a few days (alongside the commissioners), and a new Secretary General (SG) of the United Nations (UN) will be known in a few months. Both of these offices can and should serve Africa’s interests and heighten Africa’s voice in local and global affairs.

African Union HQ

The African Union (AU), the highest political platform of African heads of state and government, meets in July in Kigali, Rwanda, to elect the Chairperson of the AUC. The post, currently occupied by former Foreign Minister of South Africa, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, became vacant when she decided not to go for a second term. In a heated contest in 2012 against then incumbent Chairperson, Mr. Jean Ping, former Foreign Minister of Gabon, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma won after a third round of voting, and a deadlock that took two summits to resolve.

If Dr. Dlamini- Zuma is leaving the office to pursue other political interest at home, she is not saying. But her political path over the past forty plus years indicates that she is not retiring yet into the sunset, and the African Union has served only as a step towards the longer term interest.

After her four-year mandate, the AUC is perhaps a little different from when Dr. Dlamini-Zuma took over as Chairperson. One of her major achievements is the formulation and agreement on Agenda 2063, a far-reaching strategy for economic and social development of Africa. As the first woman to hold the post, her election also represents a leap forward on gender matter in the continent, and she is said to have championed advancement of women in the organization and in continental affairs.

The expectation that she would bring major transformation to bear in the organization has not happened. The Commission continues to be hobbled by limited funding to lead on its key programmes, including its peacekeeping functions. Whilst contributions from within Africa has not improved, some of the key donors have withdrawn their support due to dissatisfaction with AUC’s processes. Its heavy reliance on external financing means that its “African-ness” continues to be questioned. The structure of the Commission curtails the authority of the chairperson over the elected Commissioners who as heads of all key departments owe allegiance to their countries, regions and constituents rather than to the head. The unattractive working conditions and remuneration of staff makes the Commission a poor partner in the linked network of African key institutions that include the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma

These limitations persist and await the next chairperson’s possibly high level managerial know-how and political weight to resolve. Yet it is doubtful that the search for the new head had seriously sought for a set of competences that would yield such a result. The short list of three proposed candidates available as at the stipulated three month date prior to election are: Foreign Minister of Equatorial Guinea, Mr. Agapito Mba Mokuy, 51; Botswana’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, 51; and former Ugandan vice-president, Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, 60.

Murmurs of discontent with candidates have come from regional groups and countries. It is unlikely that any one candidate among the three can garner the two-thirds votes of countries that are required to be elected to the post. The depth of displeasure is visible in the fact that outside of the closing date for the post, Senegal nominated another candidate, Dr. Abdoulaye Bathily, currently UN Special Representative for Central Africa and former minister, for the post of Chairperson.

In anticipation of a deadlock where no candidate emerges at the end of the Kigali summit on July 17, several scenarios are possible. Dr. Dlamini-Zuma may be asked to continue for a specified time until another summit is held. Or it is likely that Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, and former Tanzanian President, Mr. Jakaya Kikwete are proposed to act in the interim. Should the entire process of nomination be reopened, many more candidates may join the race.

How important is the post of Chairperson?

There are two strong views. One states that it is a glorified office of a titular super secretary who manages egos and interests of heads of state, and who cannot be assertive or determined. There are stories of conflictual decisions by the Chair (sometimes also called Chairperson) of the African Union, a ceremonial role which is held in rotation by a Head of State for a year, and the Chairperson of the AUC. It is unwritten but assumed that when a head of state decides, the Chairperson can only obey and implement. Even when Mali’s former head of state, Mr. Alpha Konare, was Chairperson of the Commission, Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo, as Chair of the AU in 2005 overruled Mr. Konare’s unilateral appointment of an envoy to mediate the crisis in Togo.

An opposing view is that a diplomatic, bold and visionary Chairperson of the AUC can use the office to effect progress both for the organization and for the continent. Mr. Ping is said to have been able to make the Commission more effective thanks to his ability for engaging heads of state and using diplomatic incisiveness to get agreement. That the success attributes were not enough to get him re-elected to a second term raises several issues though.

Meanwhile, for the first time in its 70-year history, the United Nations is conducting election of the Secretary General in an “open and transparent” manner. As the symbolic head of the UN, the SG serves as both its top diplomat and its chief administrative officer. The holder of the post makes pronouncements for an organization with 30 separate agencies, funds and programmes and 40,000 staff. He or she reports to 193 member states.

As part of the preparation for the election that will announce a winner before current SG Mr. Ban Ki-moon leaves office on the first of January 2017 after two terms of four years each, a new style of involving interests and groups has started. In April, the UN put aside its traditional secrecy of the process and asked all candidates to face the public. For two hours, each of the eight candidates was questioned by member states. The process has continued and includes new candidates as they apply. On July 12, a town hall meeting of candidates, staff of the UN, observers and member countries was live streamed by Al Jazeera network and was on various social and traditional media worldwide.

Mr Ban Ki-moon

All candidates for the post have to post their curricula vitae online . A vision statement of 2,000 word was also required to be put online by candidates to articulate their positions.

The list of candidates are: Ms. Irina Bokova, Bulgaria, Director-General of UNESCO; Ms. Helen Clark, New Zealand, Administrator of UNDP, former Prime Minister; Ms. Christiana Figueres, Costa Rica, Former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; Ms. Natalia Gherman, Moldova, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. António Guterres, Portugal, Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and former Prime Minister of Portugal; Mr. Vuk Jeremić, Serbia, President of the Centre for International Relations and Sustainable Development, former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Srgjan Kerim, Macedonia, Former Foreign Minister and former President of the United Nations General Assembly; Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs ;Mr. Igor Lukšić,Montenegro, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs; Ms. Susana Malcorra, Argentina, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Ms. Vesna Pusić, Croatia, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Danilo Türk, Slovenia, Chair of the Global Fairness Initiative, former President of Slovenia.

Besides the search for top candidates, two major issues are at stake – the election of a woman into the revered position is a popular demand, and the region of choice should be Eastern Europe which has never produced a Secretary General. To date, two Asians, two Africans (Mr. Kofi Anan and Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali), one Latin American and three West Europeans have held the post.

The President of the General Assembly, Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, who is shepherding the entire process, explained recently that already the public exposure and inclusiveness has yielded important outcomes. “There is now significant global public interest in the process. The world’s media has been reporting extensively on the SG hearings and millions of people have been following on Twitter, watching online, or participating in various related events inspired by the overall process. More than ever before, the world is watching.”

He added that “anyone who was watching the dialogues could see which candidates are best suited for the job and which are not… How would the world react if the Security Council recommends a candidate who most would deem to have been among the poorest performers in the SG Hearings? “ The process has also confirmed what member states wanted from a candidate for the job, he affirmed.

Despite the transparency, the final decision will follow tradition – the five permanent members of the 15-nation Security Council — the United States, Russia, Britain, China and France — will agree on a candidate and give the name to the General Assembly to assent formally. But it is unlikely an obvious laggard in the public appearances would be decorated in private with the title of UN Secretary General.

Unlike the AUC which already has a female head, the UN has never had a female SG and that will be a big win if one emerges in 2016.

Lessons abound for the election of chairperson and leaders of the AUC from the ongoing SG identification process. Such an approach ensures more transparency, inclusiveness and openness. By interrogating candidates in public, there is bound to be enthusiasm by people. It will result in some level of familiarity with, and ownership of the organization. It will also confirm that there is at least an attempt to give the African continent the best leader to head its apex political organization in a democratic way, with a keen eye on performance.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)



Nigerian Minister of External Affairs, 1985-87

My generation by which I mean the generation which came into political and social consciousness in the 1960s was lucky in the sense that we had many real heroes, men and women from whom we drew inspiration, who made us feel that the best was within reach and that God’s mission on earth was achievable by doing good. They did not come any greater than John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrick Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, Kaduna Nzeogwu, Francis Fajuyi and yes, Mohammed Ali (the Greatest boxer of all times.). It was also the age of independence for African states, an age that liberated not just territories but the can-do spirit of the whole world.

It reminded us of the can-do and elevating atmosphere prevalent in the court of King Arthur and his knights of the roundtable. That Court was known as Camelot.

But it was also an unfortunate generation because we watched helplessly as each one of our heroes was assassinated, overthrown, and incaserated. It was a generation that watched as dreams were aborted. We watched as the dreams of independence turned into the nightmare of massacres, genocide, civil wars and kleptocracy.

Now, the last of the Camelot Titans, Mohammad Ali is gone, just gone.

I met Ali only once in Lagos during the Shagari period. The United States under Jimmy Carter was trying to organize a boycott of the Moscow Olympic games then due to be held in Moscow. Mohammed Ali was sent by the Carter Administration to lobby African States to join in the boycott. I was still at the Institute of International Affairs as the Director-General and Professor Isaya Audu was the Foreign Minister. I turned up in Professor Audu’s office on appointment only to be told to wait a while as an unexpected visitor had shown up. Soon, the door opened and I leapt up as Ali floated out in a boxing posture as he exited the Foreign Minister’s office. Then we shook hands. Professor Audu said jokingly that Ali should seek to persuade me about the Moscow boycott. That Ali went on diplomatic missions on behalf of the United States showed that even though he was against the Vietnam War and was against racism in the United States, he was not against the United States. He had a presence and a charm that masked the gritty determination of his beliefs. Ali showed a more profound and nuanced opposition to racism in the United States than most of the leaders of the anti-discrimination movements. The singular act of changing his name from Cassius Clay Jr. to Mohammad Ali sent a more powerful message as a symbolic message than a thousand marches. Ali was probably, actually definitely, not aware of the linkage between Islam and Arab slave trade in Africa. A later awareness of this in his later years might account for his switch from Sunni Islam to Sufism (another variant of Islam). Ali was a master of the grand gesture, gestures timed for maximum effect. Without a university education, not to talk of any specialization in psychology, he used psychology to devastating effect against his opponents before they even climbed into the ring.

Ali, the master performer, elevated boxing from the basement of the poor to the sitting room of royalty and billionaires. Boxing will miss him; sports will miss him; humanity will miss him.

He survived in spite of the fact that he did not play safe. He took on the American system when in 1964, he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Mohammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam otherwise called the Nation of Islam and when he refused to fight in the Vietnam War. Those who took on the system especially in 60s and 70s usually paid with their lives as one hero after another got hunted down by the invisible forces that form the underbelly of rapacious and vicious system. Mohammad Ali survived.

The death of our heroes, speaking for my generation, did not kill our dreams.  Those who kill often do not realize that dreams cannot be killed. They sow seeds that germinate over time and hopefully serve to inspire another generation.

You said you were the Greatest. So say we all. Your death brings to mind the immortal words of John Donne in his poem “For whom the bell tolls” when he wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls, it tolls for thee”

Good night Mohammad Ali

Professor A. Bolaji Akinyemi

June 5, 2016



As an ambitious, searching young man, Cassius Clay invented himself, and became 
the most original and magnetic athlete of the century—Muhammad Ali.

The Change We See And The Change We Await

By Bunmi Makinwa May 19, 2016

There is a lot of public discussion around what has changed since President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration assumed office. In the media and on the streets the debate continues. When during the acute fuel scarcity recently attendants at a petrol station refused to sell fuel into jerrycans, a customer who had been waiting for a long time exploded in frustration, “This na change, hey? No light, no fuel for generators.” Another customer rejoined, mockingly, “Na change be dat.” A third customer said, “I voted for change but not like dis.”

It is frequent to read and hear that nothing has changed, or that the country is worse off now than it was in the past. Given the hardship all around on many fronts, it is not difficult to understand the anxiety and frustration. If one does not have electricity for days, weeks; and fuel to run generators is not available, if fuel is very expensive when available; if stories of kidnap for ransom are frequent; if the news is often that cattle herders kill people wantonly; if many employees of state governments are not paid, and university graduates have no jobs, and prices of foods, consumables, rent…keep increasing, there is a lot to be unhappy about.

Yet one should strive to have a sense of balance. Especially in written discourse, there ought to be deeper reflection and analysis, no matter how easy it may seem to lean on negative generalities. There are serious changes that are taking place in the country, and for good, despite the numerous problems facing the populace at present. Many of the difficulties being witnessed are attributable to years of bad governments, misrule, abuse of office and corruption. Some of the hardship are pains that accompany reversal of official misdeeds and mis-management of the country. And, yes, some of the hardship are due to inadequate grasp of implications and effects of policy changes by the new (relatively) government and slowness in making corrections.

Lest we have forgotten, I recall the following two articles that I wrote last year. In one, during the political campaigns, first published by Sahara Reporters on January 13, 2015, titled, “Buhari: Beyond 2015 Elections- An End to Corrubration,”  I wrote:“People who fraudulently acquire enormous wealth or assets after serving in government for even a short time are welcomed with drums and dance in their communities. Military officers who earn limited salaries and allowances somehow can afford to pay for three to five students at the most expensive universities in the UK or USA, and can pay all the students’ expenses for one year at once, including for accommodation and feeding. Civil servants use their offices and authority illegally and own rows of houses in Abuja and Lagos in the most expensive places. Celebration and conspicuous display of extraordinary wealth in billions of naira is common and done with impunity even by people who cannot explain how they made a million naira. ‘Corrubration’, or celebration of corruption, has become a national norm.”

In a second article titled, “Buhari And Roots of Corruption”,also first published by Sahara Reporters on July 21, 2015, I wrote: “The new government is acting decisively and visibly and strongly on two major planks of the campaign promises – stopping Boko Haram insurgency and fighting corruption. This article is about how to expand and win the fight against corruption, on the long run. Unless corruption is put at bay, even the efforts against Boko Haram will be inconsequential. President Buhari, with the best of intentions, cannot and should not fight a “lone” battle against corruption, nor should he aim only at short term goals within his mandated period in office.  Corruption has become endemic and both its roots and trunks must be removed. His ongoing actions at the trunks should go further to the roots.”

I cite these articles to redirect our minds to the times we lived in preceding elections in 2015. My citations reflected the mood of many citizens. The disillusion and disenchantment with the previous government was borne out by results of the elections when voters dismissed the Jonathan government and welcomed overwhelmingly the Buhari administration.

Since the assumption of office by the Alliance of Progressives Congress (APC), the fight against corruption has been openly and soundly prioritized. Daily for the past months, the media of all types is replete with incredible revelations of official stealing, thieving, financial and material disrobement of country, conniving and unexplainable acquisition of monies by so-called leaders and officials in whom the nation entrusted authority and responsibility. No Nollywood script writer could have come up with a storyline that truly portrayed the extent of corruption that we hear and read about, thanks to President Buhari’s leadership. Corruption did not start with the Jonathan administration, but from what we know today, massive, unlimited corruption was aprime activity of that government.

The naming, trial and, hopefully, jailing of the big wigs that are subjects of today’s accusations and trials on corruption cannot lead to an end to corruption, yet it is a fundamental step in the cleansing. The recovery of stolen monies from these animals-in-human-skin, as chanted by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, is also crucial. Other measures should be used too, such as permanent shaming of guilty persons. Looters of the nation, no matter how highly placed, should not benefit from the loot. It can no longer be the case that election into political offices, and appointments to government positions is seen as the highway to corrupt enrichment. At this time, there is already more care on illegal financial acquisition, more soberness and less unbridled acquisition of wealth through corrupt means than was the case. People can and will change, and the ongoing pressure on corruption is a key step towards change. Even those whose main focus in government and with government was to steal cannot be so carefree and open about it today as they did in the past. There are consequences. The celebration of corruption is no longer in fashion.

Despite what is being done, government appears to be tackling the first phase of its anti-corruption strategy. Other phases – mass education, re-orientation, structural refinement of judiciary and law and order institutions – should start and be done seriously during the life of this government.

Last year, Boko Haram’s rampaging menace was a glaring reality, and was almost accepted as unstoppable. Boko Haram overran states in the North-eastern part of Nigeria. Nigerian military absconded, abandoned posts and barracks, escaping from advances of Boko Haram. The insurgents killed almost at will, abducted and chased people away from villages and towns. When some victory was recorded against Boko Haram just before the elections, the international media explained it as a good job done by forces from neighbouring Chad and hired mercenaries from South Africa. Abuja was under threat as the terrorists struck it repeatedly. The fear of possible Boko Haram’sactions in Lagos became so real that the then Governor Fashola’s government had to reassure the public that it would not happen. Not many people accepted the reassurance though. There were friends and well-placed Nigerians who started to seek alternative residence outside of the country.

Today, the situation is different. In Abuja and Lagos, the fear of  Boko Haram is no longer part of conversations. In the North-east, once a home turf of Boko Haram the main activities are to relocate displaced people to their homes, reestablish livelihood for people who have been turned into refugees, find abducted people including the Chibok girls, and make Boko Haram disappear altogether from Sambisa Forest. The glaring successful frontal attack against Boko Haram has been led by the same Nigerian military that was almost totally discredited and labeled as fatally demoralized. Today, the insurgency is contained. If this is not change, then what is it?

There is a long way to go to create a vibrant, secure and economically strong Nigeria. But noises that say no change has taken place are wrong. On corruption and on security in relation to Boko Haram, change is happening under our eyes. More change is needed overall, especially to develop infrastructures, create employment, improve the quality of life and improve power supply which is the root of growth.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)