We've been hearing a lot in the past two months about Yar'Adua needing to act quickly to establish the legitimacy of his government amidst the illegitimacy of the platform on which he won. However, the ND issues have not been at the forefront of these calls to action. Beyond the EFCC, and the fight against corruption that this Economist article highlights, there are the even more pertinent issues of the PEOPLE of the Niger Delta. Is the first step to address the corruption of these governors to ensure that the future pie is larger than it has been in the past (and can hopefully go towards alleviating the plight of the people)? Or do we need to be looking hard at what we can do to rectify the current appalling situation of the ND inhabitants, regardless of what's going on on the anti-corruption war front? On the other hand, do we need to be overhauling our constitution and fitting it to the current times, which call for the need to check the incessant corruption that thrives due to the constitutionally-protected autonomy enjoyed by state governors?
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, NEARLY - The Economist
After fraudulent elections a new and tainted president faces a mountain of problems
THERE must be few other countries on earth with such a glaring mismatch between their actual state and their extraordinary potential. Some call Nigeria Africa's slumbering giant. It more often behaves like the continent's suicidal maniac.
With 140m people, Africa's most populous country is the world's eighth-largest oil exporter. That has earned Nigeria about $223 billion in revenues over the past eight years alone. Yet so wasted has this windfall been that most Nigerians continue to live in squalor and poverty. The country ranks 159th out of 177 on the UN's human-development index. For all the energy resources that lie under Nigerians' feet, the fitful power supply dips at times to levels last seen when the country became independent nearly half a century ago.
The cause of all this is extravagant corruption and mismanagement, coupled with a political culture that owes more to the principles of gangsterism than to any textbook on democracy. April's elections were marked by violence and fraud on a scale that boggled the imagination even of jaded Nigerian voters. Many therefore regard their new president, Umaru Yar'Adua, who after months of dithering finally formed his cabinet last week, as tainted from the start.
And yet Mr Yar'Adua may yet achieve something in his four-year term. Although he was the principal beneficiary of all the ballot-rigging, his personal reputation, acquired as a state governor, is one of probity and competence. He has certainly been saying all the right things since the election about the evils of corruption and the need for transparency. And he has a receptive audience: voters sick of the looting of their country will back a leader who seems genuine about reform.
To make the most of these slim advantages, however, Mr Yar'Adua needs to act quickly. He could start by ensuring that the next election is less farcical than the last. This requires legislation to take the commission that organises elections, and the decision on who sits on it, out of the hands of the presidency and make it truly independent of the executive. The dismally partisan performance of the commission in April's election showed that it is now "independent" in name only.
Another aim must be to strengthen the anti-corruption drive that was begun by Mr Yar'Adua's predecessor as president, Olusegun Obasanjo. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which came to be used as a tool to discredit the government's opponents, must be allowed to go after anyone. It could start by prosecuting some of the former state governors, several of whom it has indicted.
Clean up the Delta, while you're about it
Cracking down on corruption could in turn help resolve the insurgency in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, which has shut down about 20% of the country's oil production. The Delta's problems do not stem from the federal government's miserliness towards local people, as is often claimed, but from the theft of the funds it sends the region. The budget of the main Delta state last year was a hefty $1.3 billion, all of this from the central government. Yet thanks to the avarice of local politicians, most was siphoned off before reaching the people, who remain some of Africa's poorest and sickest.
Mr Yar'Adua should get tough with the Delta governors to ensure that the money goes to its intended recipients. For example, he could channel more federal money into decentralised trusts and so bypass the state governors and their lackeys altogether. The Delta is where all Nigeria's plagues of political gangsterism, corruption and poverty converge. If Mr Yar'Adua can crack the Delta's woes, he may learn how to unpick some of the problems of the country as a whole.