By High Chief Tunde Adele
It was Franklin D. Roosevelt – the American politician who served as the 32nd president of the United States who said: “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way”.
The magical year 2023 may seem like light years away, but trust Nigerian politicians, the strategizing for positioning at local, state and federal levels has long taken off, master-minded by those who know the value of right timing, and leaving the rookies trying to do catch up. Some people call it foresight, others call it conspiracy or dirty politicking, but none of these matters as long as the goal of dislodgment is achieved. For the politician, the end justifies the means. Old stories are repackaged as though they are new and potentially damaging information are planted here and there to sway public opinion against targeted personalities.
With the added explosion given to the spread of news these days in the social media, the effect of misinformation can be truly far reaching. Yet, except you are one who is not familiar with our local politics, the game is never so difficult to understand. Open your eyes and ears enough to pick the signals, it’s easy to see and feel that there is so much politics in the air already. The headlines are getting more sensational by the day and the juicy stuff they throw up as breaking news are professionally packaged for maximum effect. It’s nothing new, really. Gorge Orwell, essayist and critic, popular for his classic Animal Farm, put it succinctly more than six decades ago. According to him, “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”.
In the quest for political offices, the weight and importance of the targeted seats dictate the price you pay as an aspirant. Counsellorship, for instance, is different to Local government chairmanship just as state assembly seats and senatorial positions are not in the same category in terms of the costs they extract. Now, this is not just about what you pay to pick up the party forms or the huge investment involved in reaching out to the so-called grass roots. The price I am talking about here is quantified by how well you’re prepared for whatever the opposition are bound to throw at you to derail and prevent you from realising your ambition. In this kind of dog fight, we all know that those who aspire to the juiciest positions in a nation like ours with its diversity of interests must be ready for the dirtiest of roforofo fight!
To my mind, it is this kind of desperately destructive fight that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu the National leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has again found himself. The moment it became public knowledge that he is gunning for the Presidency come 2023, whether this is real or some people are simply flying a kite, some of us knew immediately that a coalition of opposing interests would never allow him a smooth sailing. The Jagaban may fancy himself as the master on the political chess board, but making a go for the presidency, if this is true, is crossing a boundary that will severely text all that he ever knew in political gerrymandering and strategy. All manner of dirty news is flying around already which can only affirm one’s suspicion: Asiwaju Tinubu is truly in the eye of the storm!
The latest affirmation of this was the news the other week, to the effect that some prominent Lagos State indigenes are advising the Lagos State government to terminate the existing Alpha Beta contract as this has become a drain in public finances. The main news of the day was actually on the well-considered cancellation of the yearly largesse allocated to ex governors and their deputies, an act of the state assembly which by the way is replicated across the other states in the country and which have always rightly drawn the anger of the public. The argument is that a serving governor or even the President would refrain from corruptly enriching himself because of the bountiful emoluments awaiting him upon retirement. I have submitted previously that this is indeed bogus and without foundation. So, the so called ‘prominent indigenes’ are right to hail the cancellation as a “bold step to reduce the cost of governance in the state and thus free Lagos from unwarranted financial burden”.
However, the statement did not stop at that. It went on to delve into the pact between the government and its preferred Tax administrators. Hear them: “in his bold move to cut down cost of governance in Lagos state and plug all necessary loopholes of wastages, Sanwo-Olu, should as a young Governor, terminate the protracted Alpha Beta contract forthwith.”
According to them, “the contract is a complete wastage on our internally Generated Revenue. (IGR).which, along with the federal government Revenue Allocations are more than enough to cater for the infrastructural needs of the people,”
Where is the sincerity in this statement? How can you refer to an internally generated revenue which buoyancy you admitted has increased the capacity of the state to “cater for the infrastructural needs of the people” ( and which other governments in the country and elsewhere in Africa are benchmarking), while asking that we dispense with the very system, technology and the collaboration that brought it up from the doldrums? Who does not know this is all about politics?
A mo ra wa o. We know one another, as we say in Isale Igbeti.. I am quite familiar with at least three of the names listed on that report who would probably swear to being misquoted at least in part, or admit within the right circles that they were not speaking the whole truth.
In the immediate aftermath of the recent public disturbances in Lagos, especially in the light of certain people and their known investments becoming deliberate targets of arsonists, I recall a conversation I had with Chief Deinde Shenjobi, Akeem Oshodi, and Rasheed Williams to this effect that we hope the politicians would not overplay their hands and set fire to the nation. You may well have your grudges with Tinubu, but you can’t write off what successive governments in the state have acknowledged as a working pact with a private enterprise that has obviously earned its pride of place given the statistics in public domain.
We forget too easily that Alpha Beta was not the first and only external agency Lagos State has engaged in her drive to creatively accelerate her revenue generation, among other service sectors. Over time the authorities in the state have explained their justification for retaining a particular consulting firm over another and how this is premised on performance rather than politics. “The records of all our partnerships are there for all to see. The concession to Alpha Beta was not unjustified. Within the first 6 years of their consultancy, the state’s revenue quadrupled due to the professionalism and technology used in tax collection while we could see the establishment of a standardized structure for continuous growth and proper monitoring. The ease of collection has been to the benefits of both tax payers and the government. Let’s not deceive ourselves, given the well- known lethargy in the operational methods of government, not to mention the corruption, that level of monumental achievements could not have been made without the competence and tech-driven know how of the partnering Consultants”
In an interview granted an online publication a while ago, Ayodele Subair, Executive Chairman, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, when asked about what measures have had the greatest impact on boosting tax revenues in Lagos described how, ‘working with a lead consultant’ the organisation has recorded outstanding results in mobilising the previously untapped informal sector, among other strategies that had significantly improved income generation. The tax administration autonomy in place enabled LIRS to run on a private business model, “significantly reducing the amount of bureaucracy, and allowing us to strategize and formulate operational policies, acquisition of resources especially human capital and professional training, to the end that we now have a highly skilled workforce”
This is the kind of a working partnership the opposition would wish away in Lagos. It shows that those who deliberately ignore Alpha Beta’s performance and concentrate on a particular individual miss the point entirely.
In managing government assets and resources, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) have proven to be a fantastic model in this country. If we had woken up to it much earlier, perhaps the dead and buried National Shipping Line, Nigeria Airways and other moribund government parastatals would still be flourishing today. If any collaborative arrangements had ensured their survival and successes, how could it still be hurtful to anyone but the misguided that those providing the professional know how is making much money, even if these remain within agreed terms? More importantly, if those to whom the State’s governance is entrusted are saying they have nothing but praises for the results achieved by Alpha Beta, or any of other agencies for that matter, why is it difficult to trust their judgement? Politics!
High Chief Tunde Adele is a Lagos-based entrepreneur