Ladipo Adamolekun is a renowned academic, being a Nigeria National Merit Award winner. A professor of Public Administration who taught at the Obafemi Awolowo University and worked at the World Bank, Adamolekun now prefers to style himself an “independent scholar.” He is more famous recently for Iju Quarterly Public Affairs Forum, which he convened and hosted at his home in sleepy Iju, North of Akure, the Ondo State capital. In this conversation, Adamolekun scores President Muhammadu Buhari on security, economy and what is perhaps the nation’s most daunting challenge, corruption. His scorecard is presented separately while the conversation is about the scorecard itself. Excerpts:
The Buhari effect
Buhari has completed 100 days in office and the highlight of his change agenda is a sharp focus on the three core problems of the Nigerian state and society — assuring life and property for all Nigerians as well as assuring the territorial integrity of the country; two, revamping the economy with particular attention to job creation and poverty reduction and, three, combating corruption that threatens to kill Nigeria. I said, just as morning assures the day, what does Buhari’s 100 days (morning) portend, and what are we to expect from his four years? Leadership matters. Already some people are talking of the Buhari factor, Buhari effect, fear of Buhari. The same ICPC, EFCC, that did nothing or were practically doing nothing and were arguing over whether corruption was stealing, on their own,, simply because there is a new government, have suddenly swung into action. You can call it body language if you like. There was this article in one of the papers, in which the writer said his generator has gone silent. The truth of the matter is that the time is too short for the change to be just like that. But there is something you can attribute to what I call the Buhari effect. Take the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission coming out to say that no lawmaker will earn more than one million Naira.
What tangibles can we point out as direct result of this change agenda?
That’s where we are going. On security, I scored him B. Why? He has demonstrated real understanding of the issues relating to securing the country, assuring the security of property, life and Nigerian territorial integrity and clarity of what needs to be done. Because when you look at somebody who took power and relocated the command centre to Maiduguri, that’s what I mean by real understanding. You can’t be fighting and your command centre is in Abuja when the challenge is in the Northeast. That’s one of the immediate steps he took. It is a huge improvement and in fact, the army chiefs are leading the fight including the Chief of Army Staff. In addition, you have now the mobilization of support which is called the multinational joint task force. Now, to see the result on the ground is too early even though he has given them three months; but in terms of understanding, in terms of steps being taken, the setting up of the multinational joint task force is a positive step, and international friends who say that they want to support though they promised the former president, nothing really came out of it. The killings have continued although in the last three weeks, it has reduced compared to the previous five, six weeks. I don’t think anyone can doubt that he sees this as a priority and that he is taking the measures he is taking are informed by a real understanding of the issues at stake. I add that the three months’ timeline to defeat Boko Haram is purposeful leadership and commendable but it will take longer. I’m not a military strategist, he is the one, and as an outsider, a non-military strategist, I know that it is purposeful. You are putting your service chiefs on the line and of course they cannot say no since you are the Commander-In-Chief.
But often, the ability of well-meaning chief executives of states to succeed is seriously degraded by centrifugal forces, especially in a country like ours….
Not at all…. There are elements in our Federal system that we have gotten wrong which we are not doing anything about. For instance, I am a strong believer in state police. State police are essential because state police will employ people who are familiar with the area which is what we in essence call community policing. The community policing which is happening in Abuja is nonsensical because you can’t from Abuja do community policing, it can only be done in Ondo State from Akure, in Ekiti State from Ado-Ekiti, in Ogun State from Abeokuta. You get the whole point; the misuse of local government police or whatever they were talking about, regional police should not lead us to avoiding a reality like the example you have given – all the kidnapping and the armed robbery in the different states should be the business of the governors. But the governors don’t have any control over the Federal police.
If we had state police, do you think that Buhari would have been able to win the election almost as easily as he did? There were 26 states under the PDP then, and they might have used their police forces in the respective states against him and his party.
You are making a fundamental mistake. The INEC is a federal institution and it will address federal police, not state police. They can only use state police when they are doing their local election. I am saying for election, politicking, electioneering. This is hypothetical because the issue we faced in the Buhari 2015 election cycle was that there was public support for him. Why do you think he won in Ondo? I was surprised he won in Ondo State. What I am saying is that the last phenomenon we witnessed, we don’t know whether we will see it again in 2015, or other years to come. I have given you Ondo State as a state of surprise. I am sure that there are one or two others. I will tell you that the extent of the support he has in the North Central was a surprise because there are one or two states that he didn’t win in 2011. So hypothetically, I still maintain that in a Federal system, you must include state police. And for you to meaningfully talk about community policing, it cannot be done from Abuja.
Let’s get back on track. There is palpable apprehension that the delay in forming a cabinet is buffeting the economy; the indicators are stirring anxiety….
As I told you, I am talking as an analyst from the outside, I am not an insider in the APC. One thing the public was informed about was that the transition was almost like a surprise leading to a situation in which his own transition committee did not receive anything until few days to the inauguration. Part of the explanation is the nature of the transition, it doesn’t explain it all, part of the explanation will also have to do with his own character which I won’t be analyzing which is that maybe he wants to have a real understanding of what is on the ground, for instance, with regard to what we have just seen. I have just summarized my scoring for you; B+ in an area of relative understanding and background as well as corruption where he had already said a lot and we knew he was already familiar with that. But on economy, I score him D. The D will agree with your point on delay and all of that. My point is that the nature of the transition is part of the explanation, the other part of the explanation is Buhari’s own personality. A few weeks ago, he went to America. I can tell you I did not like the idea that it was in Washington that he announced that certain things won’t be done before September. I would have liked a situation where since he took over, he would have addressed the nation. But I hope before the end of September, he would have addressed the nation. By that time, he should have all these things in place including his ministers as he has promised because I think both the transitional committee chairman and himself have given that as the reason for the slowness. Yeah, nobody can deny slowness, whether you call it delay that is a different thing.
Now, the economy
The APC has a clear statement on what the party would do regarding the economy if it were to become the ruling party. It said it will revamp the economy with particular attention to job creation and poverty reduction. Now if you look at it today, you can’t see much revamping or job creation taking place. So, D is a fair grade, you might even want to put E or even F but I cite two poor indicators. Foreign exchange rate has fallen from $1 to N220. You can say that the fall was already there before he came and the continuous fall of all revenues is a major explanatory factor; but it is still a fact that the foreign exchange has fallen. Secondly, latest report from Nigeria Bureau of Statistics says growth rate in Nigeria was 2.35% during the second quarter of 2015, compared to an average of 5% between 2001 and 2014 spanning Obasanjo, Jonathan and Yar’Adua. But specifically, the last quarter of the Jonathan administration, the growth rate was 3.94%. I wanted to say further that the briefings he has been having, which is the personality of the man we are talking about which make sense but whether it needs to be so long, that’s a different issue. Those briefings suggest that there could be some modification to the content of the policy. I don’t think it will change the revamping, attention to job creation, poverty reduction; that’s broad enough. But the specifics might change and I said so far, that it’s a mixed record, even the few or little things that have been done. That is explaining my D score. Transparency and effectiveness in public financial management, and that treasury single account which some states too, about four or five of them, regardless of party and that’s extremely important for those of us that believe in a federal system. It’s not that the federal imposes some things on the state. If a state thinks that it’s something that they can usefully buy into, they buy into it. You can’t force it in the federal system. So Ambode has bought into it, Akwa Ibom, Kano, Kaduna and Cross River have bought into it.
What of the economic implications?
We’ll come to that.
I’m sure if you factor them in, it will affect your grades further. All the public sector funds are now back to the CBN, so the commercial banks will not be able to use them; only their own funds will be available for lending on short and and medium term basis. That has pushed up the market indicators as the interbank rate for short term funds has gone up.
I’ve read about what you’ve said, and I think that the banking industry should be cleaned up if it needs to be cleaned. The treasury single account is about public money and it doesn’t mean that it is single, it can also be a set of bank accounts, it’s just that the CBN would then be able to account, because after all, part of the corruption and looting we talked about is coming from this accounting issues. Internationally, this is good practice. Treasury single account is one of the international best practices in public financial management. I note the consequences that you have summarized, though I know you are not an economist. I know we have a problem even when something is good practice: How is it implemented, how is the Central Bank going to do it that he does it in a way that yields to the result. Because what he’s supposed to do is to lead the banks and not simply send people to be getting some deposits. So it increases the role of the Central Bank and I will tell you that I cannot sit here and tell you that they will handle it effectively. We can only hope that if it is handled effectively, it will contribute to helping the economy in the medium term, actually because this is the immediate term, even the short.