Employee’s Remorse And What To Do About It

Getting an offer of employment, or being just employed may come with excitement and celebrations. It may also come with nostalgia and some teeth grinding. Just like some people experience buyer’s remorse when they make a purchase and later detest the choice; new hires in many enterprises often experience employee’s remorse by deeply regretting their choice of workplace. The so called regret may come from perceived incoherence between the individual’s values and that of his new work, or unpalatable policies of the business, or dearth of tools/resources for his productivity, et cetera. It’s becoming obvious that the employee’s remorse phenomenon is becoming common place when you bother to listen to the whines and frustrations emanating from the corporate world – well, maybe not everywhere. The new year approaching therefore, there may be some reason(s) to take action on such condition, to create a new path or perspective in dealing with the feeling.

Writing about this came to me while having lunch in an eatery and unavoidably eavesdropping the conversation between two guys sitting two tables from mine. The main speaker, or rather the whiner, was dressed like a banker (rightly, bank officer) though not sure, with some stress and disgust written all over him.

“I’m sick and tired of this company, within a year of my involvement with them they have succeeded in zapping my spirit. I went in with lots of enthusiasm you know” the banker raked. “Relax my guy, you are working yourself up” his friend advised.

“You know what? From the beginning, can you believe I’ve been on a complete detour from the role I was interviewed for? They took me away from my line without training me on the new one. I had to start learning on the job – imagine asking an artist to start cracking his head with quantum physics”

“Is it that bad?” “Much worse” retorted the banker

“It gets more painful when your bosses do not listen to the staff, when they only manage by threat, or sacrifice you on the slab of office politics “

I was shaking my head at my seat asking myself “Which one, again, is management by threat?” I only know management by objective or by exception; then I realized I’m still a neophyte in the management field – lots to learn.

“And to add insult to injury, the pay is much below par, in the long term, compared to competition.”

I almost got caught chuckling aloud as I made for the counter to get another bottle of water…….

“My friend, that money issue is the real crux; admit it, you are suffering from employee’s remorse.”

By the time I returned to the seat, the two friends have disappeared. I actually wanted to pass some “wisdom” into the whiner:

Before taking any appointment:

  1. It is essential you know what you really want in a workplace. Understanding of the absolute conditions of service you desire, and the possible minimum setting you can (or willing) to endure is always critical. This should be an important guidepost in reviewing and selecting your 8-5 abode.
  2.  It is also essential you ask around about a prospective, or an engaging, place of work. Before you put that pen to paper saying…..I do; you need to confirm a congruence of the values of the company with your own (all the better if the company’s values are more noble), you also need to sync with the “culture” of the organization. There are also those so called trivial issues – e.g. availability of lunch room – you need to ascertain, later the “trivials” will become the mighty.

You should note that there are many companies where you cannot but blossom (both in career and in person) – these, you need to seek – and there are many where the meaning of work is constantly murdered. See this McKinsey’s article on how leaders kill meaning at work.

What damage control options do you have after taking up the appointment?

  1. Do nothing. Live with it. It’s your choice. 
  2. Do not be rash in your decision making. Perhaps you have the right company, but the wrong role. You might need to approach the Human Resource – if they approachable anyway – with tact in addressing your case. Talking about tact, the best description I have had till date is that of Winston Churchill “the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip”. That is the time to know if you are of any value to the organization, HR should perform a skill assessment review on you, and a job re-allocation is expected based on that, if necessary.
  3. Endeavor to add value to yourself by acquiring additional skills which maybe useful in your current workplace, or elsewhere should you decide to leave. This option always seem alluring to many since there is that “promise” of career enhancement and sometimes better personal network. It also allows you to eat your cake and have it by you having a job, yet getting your horizon well shaped.
  4. If you can quickly realize that each day you spend in “this uninspiring” enterprise culminates into your life/destiny, and that your vision of life is at 180° to that of the company; please run as fast as possible out of the door. You will not only create chance for he who care less whether he’s pissed on, but you save yourself some agonies and self pity a couple of years down the line. You should however realize that the pasture always seem greener on the other side…..I will therefore not appreciate another round of whine by my table next time.

But seriously, the effect of employee’s remorse is sometimes worse and more telling than that of the buyer’s, it may lead to health degradation including mental imbalance and acute depression. Why accumulate such negatives to your life, take action now! You must enjoy your work to succeed.

Share your experience of employee’s remorse and advice on what to do by dropping your comments below.

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Why Aliens Visit Us


Flying Saucer

If you have read Sidney Sheldon’s Doomsday Conspiracy, you might have come across reasons to believe extraterrestrial beings – aka Aliens – sometimes or regularly visit our Earth. Regardless the import of the sci-fi movies – e.g. Will Smith starred Men In Black and Independence Day – depicting the possible activities of the aliens here; you might want to believe the crap (or not) if you come across the claims of groups like the Jill Tarter led SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) regarding the existence, and the visitation of the aliens.

It has always been said, just like Sidney noted in the book, that the main reason governments refuse to confirm the visitations of the aliens and rather cloak the whole stuff in secrecy is ‘not to cause panic’ in people. It has also been suggested; believing the aliens are here for invasion and domination; that another reason is that authorities are unwilling to admit the existence of a force against which there are “no possibility of defense”. It therefore strikes me when the Russian Prime Minister, Medvedev, in this recent interview, jokingly or deliberately alluded and admitted to the existence of these beings, and in fact their visitations citing secret files filled of such. Now, it’s either the mood of the people have been gauged in that they would not be thrown into frenzy (with that admission – and really, not many people cared anyway) or the world now has enough weapons and technology to defend its civilization.

It would not be out of place then to seek the essence of the aliens’ visits. To what do we owe the nocturnal, or whenever, visits? O ye Aliens! What seeketh thou?

While one saucer flew around us at supersonic speed, imagine this conversation within the occupiers who only communicate via telepathy. “These earthlings are complicating their own existence” so thought Yarn, an occupier in an insignia-less space ship. “They are yet to fully realize that all creations have one soul, that the ecosystem of the universe binds us all together………..in fact the essence of their existence still elude them” replied Bjern, the wide eyed second occupant. “They have been corrupting the ether, mainly transmitting wicked, violent and even murderous thought forms to the exclusion of thoughts of positive creativity and industry.” it added.

While the ship scampered over Europe, entering the Middle East en-route Africa; Yarn sputtered “they engage in nationalistic, racial and religious discrimination with putrid hatred resulting in needless killings spilling that sacred blood, they remain oblivious to the implication of The Lord’s proclamation that if He had willed, He would have created everyone with same belief, race and tongue…….He prefers diversity, and so it has always been, face it Earthlings. No wonder they keep believing we are here to conquer them, imagine the fabric of their thoughts…..so shallow they are”.

Then, Vrouch, the third occupant, who has previously kept to himself, interjected “it’s more annoying when you see them competing on individual and national levels when it comes to ideas and solutions, and unfortunately, they hardly get it…..they keep forgetting that collaboration and cooperation are what underpin the universe. They always greedily squander their resources, yet chanting scarcity….when abundance is what is really provided for them.” it sighed, and continued (repeating Sidney’s line) “they keep destroying their planet, needlessly heating it up, killing themselves with controllable gas emissions and other wastes……..earthlings are so destructive going by the rate of deterioration I observe each time I fly around here, we must impress good lessons into them.”

“If not for the feelings of starvation and oppression oozing from their planet from the masses, we would not have appreciated the amount of corruption pervading their lives, how do you explain N5trn disappearing from the watchful eyes of the guardians of that entity called Nigeria or their ostentatious lifestyles pushing the masses deeper into the abysmal pit of poverty and depression, yet they cry ‘limited supply of resources’.” concluded Yarn as the ship sped through the heart of Africa into space for the umpteenth time.

It’s much reasonable, for me, to flow with Jill Tarter – over the apprehensive view of Stephen Hawking, who opined to the possible enslavement of our species should the extraterrestrial beings invade – that the aliens’ mission here is to exhort man to peace, tolerance, cooperation and service. Man’s planet is truly imploding, not only from the reported climatic changes resulting from his handiwork, but through self butchering, genocide and corruption. The world leaders (political, religious and business) should rather listen to the aliens, and learn from their feet. And if the leaders would remain obstinate, the aliens may administer the treatment given to Admiral Whittaker in that Sidney’s book; take them up for training. Surely, the world needs peace.

Share your view on the aliens’ visitation to the earth by dropping your comments below.

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Why Nigeria Telcos Lost Mobile Money To The Banks

Mobile-moneyIt is a service that has been proven to assist in bills payment, airtime purchase, funds deposit and withdrawal, and importantly money transfers especially between remote locations. Mobile money – a service expected to bring the unbanked populace into the realm of financial inclusion, and to give the already banked a quicker way of transacting ‘small’ deals with their cell phones – is officially just over a year old in Nigeria, going by the cashless (or cashlite) regime championed by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The CBN, who has adopted the bank-led model of mobile money system for the country, had earlier licensed 11 firms to offer the service to Nigerians; 75% of whom have been severely abandoned by the banks due to low earning and/or distance to ‘civilization’. All these were to the exclusion of the telecom operators who were willing to participate, but only expected to be enablers in the industry.

The slow growth of the service in Nigeria, in the opinion of many concerned citizens, has to do with the model chosen by the apex bank. Contrasting this with the global runaway success story when it comes to mobile money, Kenya; the development of the service was telco-led riding on their huge subscriber base, many of whom were unbanked. Safaricom of Kenya ventured into the world of unknown in 2007 with its M-PESA (M is for mobile, and PESA is money in Swahili), and within a year could boast of 1 million subscribers on the service. Five years later, over a third of the country’s population are using the service. The mobile transfer funds in the country within the first nine months of this year alone was very close to the national budget value, $17.5bn. M-PESA of course made Safaricom lots of money – over 12% of its total revenue in 2011, and in 2012 it made about Shs16.9bn (about $196m), 16% of the total revenue coming from the mobile money service (Check Safaricom’s full 2012 Annual Report here). But, was it about money in the beginning? Was it even designed ‘for’ business at all? Was the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) sleeping when the service was being piloted? That’s really where both the telcos in Nigeria and the CBN got it wrong……it was never about the money in the beginning, and the CBK was well aware of the scheme development; yet guided the venture to fruition. It was people first, need met, period.

The telecom operators in Nigeria lost the chance despite being given a clear business case from the beginning. Many would remember the boom period of mobile telephone kiosks and tables when call tariffs were still a bit high; it was customary then to send recharge card pins across states to your friends and relatives with the kiosk operators buying such pins at discount. You were transferring money and paying for services, but the telcos missed the cue. They thought people were sending recharge cards pins for their friends to top up, so they rolled out versions of Me2U products where you could send credit to your friends’ phones without scratching. But people actually wanted physical cash! If they had really noticed, and really wanted, they could have made a case to the then CBN governor who might have been more accepting.

Another reason was that, perhaps the telcos noticed the need for the service, but were too concerned about the business side of the venture and its viability – not much was known about Safaricom’s success until 2010, so no previous benchmark for them anyway. The Kenyan operator initially designed the scheme as a microfinance project tailored to assist people (especially those in the rural areas) have easy access to funds, and not as a ‘business’. The company was actually trying to fill a ‘big’ social need, but the scheme evolved into the massive M-PESA on the Kenyan streets. Nigeria telcos were (and still are, going by their hurt after the CBN preclusion) seeing the service as another possible VAS (Value Added Service) business where they can rake in cool billions. The banks and other licensed firms might also be suffering from the same malady now. They should all realize that focusing on the business unit’s bottom-line ab-initio would never work. There is that need to empathize with the unbanked first, and be really seen to empathize.

The last point may not directly be attributable to the telcos, and that’s financial regulation. It’s true that we are actually talking about people’s money, but we are also concerned about efforts to bring about 75% of bankable population into the formal financial stream. Hence, there’s a real need to allow innovation to fester first before regulation. This was the position of the CBK, and the country is now better for it. With about 14.91 million people on M-PESA, as at March 2012, imagine the financial buzz. And mind you, M-PESA (and other mobile money offerings in the country) are now tightly tied and integrated with the banks. But first things first!

The CBN’s concern of not wanting to put two important sectors of the economy into the hands of a few companies sound very risk averse and being ready to abdicate the responsibility of checking and monitoring, like CBK did. With the current huge number of mobile subscribers in the country, infrastructure, and the ready made fleet of agents (recharge cards sub-dealers and retailers); the telcos are well, and better, suited to champion this service. With the bank-led model, we might have put the cart before the horse.

Share your insights on mobile money by dropping your comments below.

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Between Apocalyptic 2012 And 2013 Goals

In November 2009, an American science fiction disaster film, 2012, was released to the market. The film, with John Cusack as the leading actor, attempted to finally bring into the viewers’ consciousness the oft-repeated concern of some people, the possible ending of the world as we know it on December 21, 2012. There are lots of doomsday theories surrounding the 2012 phenomenon, all supposedly built around the ending of the Mayan calendar. However, the 2012 film, which raked about $770m in revenue, was built around the apocalypse that would follow the effect of neutrinos from a massive solar flare believed to cause the temperature of the Earth’s core to rapidly increase. The producers of the film must have chosen this particular theory based on the current velocity of the world politics with respect to global warming and climate change. Little wonder they boldly wrote on the film’s cover: We Were Warned.

Owing to this film, and several claims of its kind, several people are already giving up hope of planning and living their lives. Polls, conducted across many countries, have shown serious apprehension in terms of fear and anxiety in people as per the ‘end of the world’. Some are already asking if they should kill themselves and their families so as to escape the agony of the apocalypse. These set of people definitely care less of the incoming year 2013, if it ever comes.

Should you care? Is there any need to start noting your goals for the new year and maybe the next five years?

If you don’t believe in the Mayan calendar or the usual doomsday tales, it is time to commence planning for the new year. Goal setting requires introspection, real self talk and time since choosing the right goals to begin with is harder than the process of setting goals. Aside the fact that goals make you accountable, they particularly drive you forward with laser focus on your life. The just departed Zig Ziglar used to say that a goal properly set is halfway reached……..and that goals don’t care who has them. The whole month of December is yours to review the outgoing year, and to start designing for the incoming one. Dare yourself with that business, that career switch, that relationship, that weight loss and that additional degree you have been dreaming about. Dare to succeed. Let the new year count.

In truth anyway, many scholars of the Mayan history, and even the Mayan people of Guatemala, are decrying the association of their calendar with the end of the world. To them, there is no link of the cataclysmic events of the end of time with the calendar. If you are religious, rather believe in the eschatology of your faith, and if your belief is in pure science, take solace in the NASA repudiation of the 2012 apocalypse claims (check the NASA points here). All should instead focus on making the new year more fulfilling.

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Israel-stine: Toys Tests and Ceasefires

Israel-Palestine Land MapYou may sometimes wonder whether the scientific explanations of the rumbling thunders or lightnings in the skies could be entirely true. Perhaps the noise are the sound of various weapons of war being used by extra-terrestrial beings to settle conflicts. Maybe the universe is supposed to be enmeshed in confusion, violence and bloodshed. The on going Syrian revolution notwithstanding, the just ceased Israel-Palestine (or rather, Hamas) exchanges of fire, and previous altercations of similar forms continue to show the ease with which human’s frequency of peace can be changed to that of violence.

It’s truly a sensitive and complex issue to write about considering the religious and nationalistic dimensions added on to the conflict making it not only a regional concern but a global one. You may go through a multimedia of the Crisis Guide here. I used to wonder whether a single drop of blood would have been shed if it were the Roma people that were made to settle in the area in 1947; but Jews? No way!

Maybe the process of settling the people of Israel in that zone was faulty, maybe there was no proper consultation and agreement with the Palestinians on ground, maybe the UN had ulterior motives in the Jewish resettlement, maybe the “Zionists” truly have the agenda to usurp the whole land; the conflict is really getting too old. There is an urgent need to save the land and the future generations from the seething hatred, poverty, fear and warfare (mental and physical) currently pervading the region. People desire lasting peace where there could be proper development of both land and people instead of the recurring interchanges of violence and lulls.

The just ceased imbroglio was highly unnecessary and ill timed. It got escalated with the Israel’s assassination of Ahmed Al-Jabbari (former military head of Hamas) who was reportedly just offered a peace plan meditated by Egypt. The violence however only gave both parties the chance to test their new weapons or defense mechanisms. Israel tested its drone with precision bombing, while Hamas was able to confirm that the newly acquired long range rockets can now reach Tel Aviv from Gaza, that was never achieved in the long history of rocket firing. Israel also re-tested and confirm the capability of the Iron Dome defense system with respect to barrages of rocket – only a third of all Qassam rockets fired were intercepted, and 85 – 90% success rate in destroying the intercepted rockets. Even, the COLOR RED rocket warning phone app came to the fore during the struggle; unfortunately aside the buzzing of the drones over their roofs, there was nothing to warn the Gazans of any impending bomb or bullet.

Billions of dollars were used in the development and production of drones and defense system on the Israeli side, while significant amount would also be expended to acquire all the new Grad launchers, guns and maybe stones on the Palestinian side……to what end? To extirpate the other party, in spite of several moves and plans by both international and regional bodies to normalize relations and ensure peaceful coexistence.

There have been initiatives, accords, processes and maps designed by governments and bodies to ensue peace, all rejected by either or both parties altogether. Whether the leaders of the two parties like it or not anyway, the people’s choice of the willingness to live side by side as two states must be respected. Majority of Israelis and Palestinians, in a poll Israel-Palestine: 2 States in Peaceconducted in 2007, had already stressed their readiness to sheathe the swords and live in peace. One very good plan which can be reviewed and implemented is the Fahd’s plan of 1982, enhanced and re-presented as Saudi Plan in 2002, and re-presented again at the Riyadh’s summit of 2007. It is a plan underpinning the UN resolutions 242 and 338 which require both parties to revert to pre-1967 war arrangement, and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza in return for peace and right to live for Israel. The plan; though had support of the Arab league, Europe and even US; could not work because there was no sufficient guarantee for Israel’s security. That solves it!

Thankfully the direction of the Obama administration in resolving the conflict is to largely involve the regional powers for which Qatar, Saudi and Egypt are responding to. So guys, pick up the Saudi plan and polish it with some significant guarantee for the security of the state of Israel, and let peace reign. Israel should also come to the table with assurances for the “refugees”. We know it’s easier said, but you all know that in almost 70 years of the struggle, violence has brought nothing good. People are tired of the incessant fires and ceasefires. It’s time to engage in true and sincere negotiations with readiness for compromise for the sake of the children, women and youths who have known nothing in their entire existence but violence. Peace!

Share your thoughts on the way forward for the region by dropping your comments below.

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7 Lessons Romney’s Loss Should Remind Business Leaders

It is true that there has been several issues this past week I could blog on today : Petraeus – Broadwell scandal and the ensuing conspiracy theories, Israel’s assassination of Ahmed Jabari, Sinofsky’s resignation from Microsoft, the demise of Lam Adesina and Olusola Saraki (both former Nigerian political godfathers), Boko Haram’s readiness for dialogue, Nigerian Communications Commission’s banning of promotions and lotteries by telecoms operators; but none itches me more than the lessons we can all be reminded of, especially business leaders, from Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama in last week’s US presidential elections.

The whole episodes of the campaign trail, debates, elections and the management of all these three become some opera from which one could learn some vital lessons. Neglecting, or violating, these lessons by Mitt’s campaign organization was worrisome knowing that Romney himself is a numbers guy, an all round business figure. Having started and worked in/on several ventures, you would expect the candidate and the campaign to be uncompromising in employing ‘best practices’ in campaign setup, mobilization and management. So, comparing Mitt’s ways with Obama’s – a previous community organizer with not much reported business management acumen, though you cannot doubt his leadership skills – strategies, these lessons become imperative:

1. Never Underestimate Your Competitor

It was evident that the campaign and the Republican party machinery believed there was no way Obama’s campaign could survive the Americans’ decision. No incumbent president has won re-election on such high unemployment numbers, none on such high deficit position, and none with supposed socialist tendencies. While still doubting the polls, and ignoring Obama’s campaign’s real strengths (rhetoric and oratory not intended) of ground work, door-to-door explanation of policies, moderate views and arithmetic, they plunged into the election. The exit polls confirmed much of what the ‘real’ polls have been saying and not what Fox news was feeding the GOP.

2. Have Character

One of the major failings of Mitt’s campaign was being unprincipled, and using his words ‘Americans noticed that’. He was seen to be flip-flopping around ideas and principles with no much guidepost. You either have character, or like Robert Greene (the author of the 48 Laws of Power) might advise, pretend to have one commendable trait identifiable with you or your team. In a business environment where the management is seen to constantly shift the goal posts with respect to policies and commitments, you do not only see distrust from stakeholders but very stunted growth potential. Employees, suppliers and customers only shrug when such enterprises release notices, they know the notices hold no water. It should baffle you how such businesses still write any reasonable figure against their goodwill on their balance sheets…….in truth, there is none.

3. Never Concede Market Share

It is true that businesses do well with a well defined niche, but businesses cannot and should not give up on market share. That’s why it seemed very absurd for Mitt to outrightly give up on 47% of all Americans at that fundraising event. Such comment was/is preposterous for a campaign depending on people’s thumb print. Even Guinness and other brewery houses never left some areas that are supposed to be ‘sacred’ and beer free…..they care not only for sales but market share. It is on this same note that the governor of Louisiana (Bobby Jindal) spanked Romney at yesterday’s conference of Republican governors: “We have got to stop dividing the American voters,” he said. “We need to go after 100% of the votes, not 53%.”

4. Plan for Contingencies

We can never stress this lesson enough. Planning for contingencies – business continuity and disaster recovery – is essential for business success. You cannot be too over confident on your product(s), processes and infrastructure. In fact, you cannot be too confident of your bottom line projections, that’s why it’s called projection. Romney campaign was largely depending on its much reported Project Orca to counter Obama’s ground work, only that it’s best use would have been on the election day. The application was to be used to monitor voters and report on the yet-to-vote ones, then volunteers would rush in to encourage the voter to go out and cast her ballot for you know who. But the application and “back end database servers’ were not really stress tested for the job until the election day. Alas! The application went kaput and there was nothing anybody could do. Same goes for Romney’s unpreparedness for a concession speech. He, and the campaign have been over confident that he would only need a victory speech. For me, that’s too cocky.

5. Listen Broadly

Decision makers know that it pays to listen wide before making their choices. This affords them the chance of reviewing the pros and cons of all available options. Without doubt, business leaders that are giving their ears to only those telling them stuffs they wish to hear are killing the enterprise in their trust. Romney and his campaign were only concerned with Fox news and the likes with respect to polls and their analyses. Karl Rove and his cohorts were feeding the GOPers what they wanted to see, and in fairness to Karl, he believed in his model till the end…..Obama must lose Ohio! Believing the models and analysis of Donald Trump, Adelson Sheldon and Fox news while ignoring that of Nate Silver & Co was a huge undoing. Listening only to the super conservatives and the Tea ‘partiers’ to the exclusion of the moderates in the party did a great harm to the campaign. Business leaders are expected to be sponges to absorb ideas from all angles, then squeeze out the waste after careful considerations. Among those other voices maybe that tiny, shrilling voice on whose insight the enterprise may ride to greatness.

6. Respect Customers’ Choices

It’s always to any business benefit to receive feedback from its customers with respect to their needs. The onus is then on the enterprise to deliver solutions for people’s needs and cash in therefrom. It is true that the Republican party (especially the conservatives and the tea party stalwarts) might have values they were offering the American masses, but they should not have scoffed at those being chanted by average Americans. Obama’s campaign played this lesson very well by appealing to the concerns of a wide range of demographics – middle class, veterans, women (health and abortion rights), college students (loans and grants), homosexuals (even though many do not approve), seniors (health insurance and medicare) etc. Mitt’s campaign was only fixated on its own offering, and so are many businesses with their product ranges. Well, customers know how to respond…….ignore!

7. Your External Environment Matters

It is a routine in all business schools when talking about strategy….PESTEL analysis. PESTEL analysis stands for “Political, Economic, Social, and Technological, Environmental and Legal analysis”. It is a part of the external analysis when conducting a strategic analysis or doing market research and gives a certain overview of the different macro environmental factors that the company has to take into consideration. The Romney campaign felt the only issues concerning Americans (yes, it should be) are jobs and economy, and so cared less when he went abroad and literally insult the sensibilities of Great Britain (at the start of London 2012 Olympics), the people of Palestine, and America’s number one creditor, China. Those states and many others stylishly amplified the fact that they cannot work with such person on foreign policy issues. Yes, those countries would not vote in the elections, but Americans noticed being rubbed in the mud by their aspiring Commander-in-Chief. Give your external environment some consideration and you may ride on that to greatness.

The whole campaign and the electioneering process gave a good platform for us to learn, or be reminded of those lessons to better manage our lives and enterprises. For that, thanks Mitt!

Share other lessons you might have gleaned from the campaign process and your other insights by dropping your comments below. 

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Obama’s Re-election: Implications for Africa

When the NBC first called in the election and pronounce President Barack Obama reelected for second term in office, the new America was born. When he rose to the podium to deliver his victory speech – you realized here was a man who ought to have been politically crumbled due to “superficial” figures of job creation and humongous debt, yet he was audaciously hopeful of success at the polls. As I was listening to his speech, I could not but wonder how much effect his second term will have on Africa.

Obama, though has the African blood flowing through his veins, is much broad minded to be too concerned with Africa really. He can really be said to be race-neutral, and of course not a bigot. By the way, he only made one hasty trip to sub-saharan Africa throughout his first term and that’s to Ghana. The other one being Egypt. However, we are talking about American elections here; Americans might have decided but the effect is felt worldwide.

His race neutrality nevertheless, he appreciates the opportunity the American spirit gave him to climb to his current status, and thus abhors policies and governance that would rather shunt the possibility of sustainable human development, equal opportunity, transparency, education and innovation – much of what many African governments represent.

His views and objectives, expressed in the policy document of June, 2012: U.S Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, are to: (1) strengthen democratic institutions; (2) spur economic growth, trade, and investment; (3) advance peace and security; and (4) promote opportunity and development.

Obama’s government will be attempting to consolidate on the four-pronged approach in partnering with ‘responsible’ governments and actors in Africa to promote strong and credible democratic norms and processes, facilitating with U.S companies to trade with and invest in Africa, addressing constraints to growth and promoting poverty reduction, and increasing opportunities for women and youth. And much more…..

It is of course expected that the American government intensifies its effort in the area of trade and investment in Africa since China has been romancing and actually becoming established as a worthy partner in trade and investment. China’s strategy, in relations with African countries, is easily understood though as it needs to obtain energy resources to support and sustain economic development. Obama, however, will be seeking to improve Africa’s trade competitiveness by encouraging diversification of the continent’s exports beyond natural resources, or extractive industries, and ensuring the benefits from the growth are broad-based.

Most of these functions would be undertaken using the ‘usual’ aid through the USAID. There has however been serious shouts as to the effectiveness of the US foreign aid to Africa both from concerned Africans and US Congress. The President himself is really concerned as to the utter dependency of African governments on foreign aid, and for which has steeped further in corruption. In the words Professor Ayittey, much of the aid has gone into the accounts of African dictators as most African leaders are more interested in lining their pockets than encouraging entrepreneurship. That’s especially unfortunate, because before Africa – now the begging bowl – was colonized it had a culture of markets and entrepreneurship, a spirit still in evidence in small African towns.

Regardless of China’s continuing influence, and in consonance with Obama’s views of public service responsibility, the American government may remove or reduce aid going to some African countries, for example, previously small allocations of existing Development Assistance funds would be eliminated in at least eight countries (Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mauritius, Niger, and Togo) and would be cut by over half in several others (including Burundi, Djibouti, and Guinea). Some would however receive significant boost e.g Kenya – fast turning to Africa’s technological go to hub, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria (largely because of the strategic partnership between the 2 countries more than anything). To this end, Africa foreign operations budget for FY2012, as made available and analysed by the Congressional Research Service, showed a total $7.8bn planned for the continent (a figure slightly lower than what was actually spent in FY2010 – $8.1bn). The figure is as such not just because the country is still normalizing from the Great Recession, but because of the renewed sense of real monitoring and expected responsibility from recipients.

It is also noteworthy to the African countries fully dependent on crude oil for their sustenance that the Obama administration’s long term energy policy see more of clean and renewable energy than fossil based. Machineries, policies, and strategies are already in place to achieve his pledge of cutting America’s daily 11 million barrels of oil imports by a third by the end of his presidency. It is true that every president since Richard Nixon has called for America’s independence from oil, but Washington gridlock has prevented that again and again, but don’t underestimate Obama. The same way universal health care bill was sought by many presidents, but Barack got the Act, Obamacare is now a reality. Countries need to start thinking of diversification.

On a final note, during this second term, Africa may see significant increase in remittances from the US and elsewhere. it has been noticed that African Americans (and by extension African migrants) do well during Democratic party’s presidency, and as such more inflow of money is expected into the continent. Today’s African Diaspora consists of approximately 20 to 30 million adults, who send about $40 billion annually to their families and local communities back home. For the region as a whole, this represents 50 percent more than net official development assistance (ODA) from all sources, and, for most countries, the amount also exceeds foreign direct investment (FDI). According to a World Bank study, Nigeria is by far the top remittance recipient in Africa, accounting for $10 billion in 2010, a slight increase over the previous year ($9.6 billion). Other top recipients include Sudan ($3.2 billion), Kenya ($1.8 billion), Senegal($1.2 billion), and South Africa ($1.0 billion). Hopefully this inflows will be allowed to do that which they are meant for: development.

Obama’s re-election is therefore a mixed blessing for Africa, and of course, the effects are going to be felt in varying degrees around the continent. For many countries, with not much exportable commodities, balance of trade may tilt much out of their favor; some (e.g Kenya and Ghana) may become more stronger because of their better democratic institutions and entrepreneurial opportunities. For many, especially the youths, the Obama figure alone is enough a psychological boost telling them that hope is not lost; with education, endurance and opportunity spotting, the world can be at their feet.

Share your thoughts on this issue by dropping your comments below.

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America’s Electoral College System Suits Nigeria

It is true that America has exported (and is exporting) her ideals and philosophies around the globe especially in the context of democracy. It is also evident that the result of the export has been really mixed. We have all seen democratic dictatorships, parliamentary democracies, monarchic democracies and what have you. However, the bedrock of the American democracy vis-a-vis Presidential/Vice-Presidential elections – The Electoral College System – is held tight to chest. For this, no export! Even though, you may want to agree with me that the system will suit Nigeria.

Since independence, Nigeria has gone through some experimental settings of democratic governance but has come to rely more on the presidential system with the two houses of national assembly akin to a republic, and of course same spirit with the American system. However, when “copying” the American democratic style, Nigeria did not imbibe the electoral college stuff which may assist the nation in combating virtually all the ills always plaguing the country during and after elections: bribery and thuggery, wanton destruction of lives and properties, marginalization of minorities, massive voter fraud (rigging) and errors, and “abnormal” long  court cases while contesting results.

The system, though not totally perfect on its own, elicit the spirit of true federalism, an ethos being loudly touted by most political leaders in Nigeria as the missing piece in our representative democratic endeavor. It necessarily demands moderation, compromise and coalition building among political parties and candidates (particularly the aspiring Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates). The candidate(s) are expected to appeal to a broad range of people, and not just be urban- or class-centric. Electoral college therefore reflects people’s choice but also respect the minority; it also definitely creates stability and certainty in elections.

The system is such that all the votes on the national election day are actually being cast for a certain set of people (the electors – one from each senatorial district and Federal Constituency) who have been earlier chosen/elected by political parties, in each and every state, to represent them in selecting both the president and the vice president sometimes after the general elections (it is always done in December in the US election year). A simple majority win on the votes of electors is enough to return a candidate (or set of candidates as in joint ticket) as the winner of the elections. The current number in the US is 538 and as such any candidate winning 270 electors carries the election. Nigeria with 469 “electors”- total number of senatorial districts and federal constituencies in the country- should necessarily have the candidate having 236 electors as the president. The candidate having the required electors will be declared as the winner of the election regardless of who wins the popular vote of the general election.

You may want to term the arrangement as being unfair and undemocratic especially when the candidate winning the electoral college loses the popular vote – it has only happened four times in the over 200 year history of US presidential elections, the most recent being Bush’s victory in the 2000 election – but the implication is that the losing candidate might have neglected some minorities and/or ideals affecting some groups of electors as evident in Al Gore’s case with New Hampshire in 2000. The system rather create a fair ground for big and small states to have a real say in choosing the president, and allow people of some leanings to fight to be heard, else…..

Nigeria with so many ethnic groups and other minority interests therefore should really benefit from this kind of arrangement. And with elections always fraught with irregularities and violence, Section 134 of the 1999 constitution (declaring the candidate with: 1. the highest number of votes at the election, 2. not less than 25% in each of at least 24 states in the Federation, the winner of the election) which is basing success on only national votes may need need to be amended for a Nigeria-needed system like the Electoral College System.

Share your thoughts on the viability of this system in Nigeria by dropping your comments below.

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The Prisons We Call Homes

Building, or owning, a house is a normal dream for each and every adult, male or female, whether in Accra or Ankara, Lagos or Los Angeles, Mali or Makkah, Abuja or Aberdeen or wherever. The freedom often derived from the houses however vary widely depending on the part of the world you are fortunate to be. The houses being built by the middle class and above in some areas in West Africa are nothing but prisons rather than homes.

The freedom being sought from the style/design of the structure is always being met by the challenges of neighborhood security thereby forcing you to budget for unnecessary surveillance and physical constraints measures. Hence, for many living in the free rural areas, it takes them little time to notice how restrictive the urban middle class lives can be. It takes them little to see beyond the advertised grandeur of the “rich” homes to see prisons instead. How do you describe this feeling: You are passing by your friend’s house and you need to have some conversation, yet you are pressed for time. You called your friend on phone to step unto his balcony for some chat. Alas, the balcony has been fully barred with iron rods; so he has to talk to you behind bars, as you might imagine!

It is around here, unlike what may obtain outside of Africa, that you will see some individual structures with security towers (for the watchmen); despite a very high brick fence with electrical deterrents already constructed. You may also have to drive in through a toughened iron gates into the compound. Looking round, you will likely observe windows with wrought iron burglary restraints; and CCTV cameras for both internal external surveillance. You will be entering the house through a toughened steel security door, and you may have to pass through a couple of such doors before accessing the main living room. What a structure! You will not be too far from the truth if you look at this as a microcosm of the Fox River – the main prison in the popular TV series, Prison Break.

Ironically, the prison inmates still feel much more safer and relaxed than most “inmates” in a typical Nigerian middle class house. Fear of burglars and robbers, with their terror, sometimes pervade neighborhoods; palpitations sometimes experienced whenever some gentle breeze blows around the curtain blinds………what a life! Is it possible to turn this tide around? Can we work round this sense of fear and insecurity?

Of course, we can! We are currently at a point where youth development and productive ‘busy-ness’ to be underpinned by adequate social welfare have become highly necessary in our societal existence. We need to productively engage the teeming youths in ideas and ventures which will consequently dissuade them from the culture of crime and intimidation. We can:

  • Establish lots of community vocation centres where youths can engage in skills acquisition and development. There should be real efforts to teach today and future’s skills, and not just basket weaving or palm tapping! The youths want to be competitive and relevant in the society.
  • Establish our own social security benefits scheme for unemployed and underemployed people. This would not necessarily create a sense of dependency on the government, rather showing government’s responsibility to the citizenry. The stipends will naturally take care of the pangs of hunger, but importantly it will free the mind towards creativity and entrepreneurship.
  • Sincerely extend loans to yearning small business idealists to start something. This should be driven down to the lowest level of the societal hierarchy. We can create functional advisory boards to guide this small business guys in setting up systems for business operations. With the experience of the Bangladeshi Grameen Bank, we know this type of scheme will work and that people will repay the loans – they are even more honourable than the corporate debtors other banks run after.
  • Create more security posts or police stations across the states to tackle the spate of crime. The officers, of course, need to be well trained and equipped to face the tasks. Our intelligence efforts are also concentrated around politicians and government properties, it’s high time an average citizen enjoyed the benefit of the State Security Services.

With these and some other measures, we may be able to relax the restrictive measures in our homes since many would be much productively engaged. We will free ourselves from living in prisons but rather as real free men.

Share your thoughts on measures you believe can fine tune our prison homes by dropping your comments.

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