Thursday, 30 June 2011

DEREGULATION

Funso Kupolokun, senior special assistant to the president on petroleum and chairman, presidential technical committee on liberalisation of the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil industry, talked to Maureen Chigbo, Tobs Agbaegbu, Bayo Ogunmupe and Chris Ajaero

Newswatch: Most people think that deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry would lead to high prices of petroleum products. Will deregulation really lead to high prices of petroleum product?

Kupolokun: The answer is something like this: When you talk of petroleum products there are several segments of it, you have the crude input, you have the refining cost, you have the distribution cost, and you have a little bit of margin for the business to be sustainable for all the participants. You know as much as I do that crude prices in the international market swing up or down. In 1998, just two years ago, crude price in the international market was something like $10 per barrel. But talking about $10 per barrel for the price of the product will not be quite realistic. If it goes to $15 it is another thing.

All we are saying about liberalisation is simply that democracy is about freedom of participation and liberalisation itself is a subject of democracy. Liberalisation is democracy in business. So, if we liberalise, it means we open up the system and everybody will be able to participate and all the segments or the supply and distribution chain must be opened up for the participants. What we are saying is that they should be able to recover cost and a little bit of margin for them to have a sustainable business. And depending on what crude costs in the international market, which we cannot predict, price could move up or down. So, if anybody says that liberalisation means upward movement of price, that person is less than honest. Indeed, it would be the other way. Another thing is that once you open up, there will be competition. What does competition do? Competition itself might drive prices downwards. So, it does not always mean upward review of prices.

Newswatch: The downstream petroleum industry must operate under well-defined policies and procedures based on modern economic ideas if any nation is to derive maximum benefits from the economy. Does Nigeria  have such energy policy? If it  does, does such a policy state with regards to liberalisation of the oil sector?

Kupolokun: You have to have a coherent energy policy and there is one. Part of that policy is that the downstream sector has to be liberalised and what we are doing at this stage is to get  people to understand what liberalisation means, what are the dividends of liberalisation, and why we should embrace it. But definitely , there is energy policy and one that is coherent. For instance, when you liberalise the downstream, then you find out that gas could come in because products will then move to their rightful place in terms of energy equivalent and you can then promote the development of that. So, all these things are inter-linked. So, there is a coherent energy policy, there is a coherent planning.

Newswatch: You said that liberalisation will open up the downstream sector for all participants. Is it going to be an all-comers affair?

Kupolokun: The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has the monopoly today. Anywhere in the world where there is monopoly, it does not work, it has not worked and it will never work. The home of tight regulation of the economy was the USSR; but they realised much later that the centre could not hold, things fell apart. The government of the Russian federation, what is it they are doing today? Their primary focus is the eradication of corruption and coming next to that is the complete liberalisation of the Russian economy. So, the country has found that monopoly does not work. What we are saying in this case is that we want to open up. NNPC will be free to participate, major marketers, independent marketers will be free to do their business, refiners will be free to participate. You will then find out that the moment you liberalise the system, people will invest in new refineries and there will be a lot of private investors. So we are not going to depend on NNPC alone. You have NNPC on one hand, you have independent marketers who may wish to import, you have major marketers who may also import when they like, you will also have within three years, refineries here and there. Products will be available as and when you need them. Once products are available, and many people are participating, competition sets in and competition itself will force prices downwards and democracy is the right to choose. If you don’t like the NNPC, you don’t buy from NNPC and you will have filling stations all over the place. Some could say my price is N20 plus free gift, the other one could say my price is N22 plus free car wash, another could say mine is N23 plus Christmas presents. So, you decide the one that suits you most. The choice is yours because the consumer in this case is the king and that is what liberalisation is all about; freedom of choice.

Newswatch: Most Nigerians have kicked against liberalisation of the downstream sector because of fear that it would affect the masses greatly. Would you say that government has well-articulated policies on the downstream sector and what measure will government take to ameliorate whatever effect liberalisation will have on the economy and the masses in general?

Kupolokun: That is a double-barrel shot. You say that most Nigerians have kicked against it and then what government is doing to ameliorate the effects of liberalisation. Initially, when people hear the word liberalisation, deregulation, opening up, they do not understand. And people say that with liberalisation, price will go to high heavens. People were apprehensive and it is normal. Today, we have been going about and that is what the Gbadamosi committee said, that we should have an enlightenment phase and that is what we are doing now. And I tell you this, we have been to several different states, so far, apart from the good job that the National Orientation Agency, NOA, is doing. We in the presidential technical committee on liberalisation of the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil industry have been to seven states and after our visit to these states, I will say that I feel  satisfied. Everywhere  we have gone to make our 90 minutes presentation, at the end of the day, we have found out that virtually everybody will say it is the right thing to do. The moment you enlighten the people, the moment you familiarise them with what the gain will eventually be, the moment you assure them as to how it will be done, they quickly embrace it. Not one state said they don’t want it.

In Borno, the governor of the state said it is not only good for Borno State, but he is sure that is what is good for the north. A few days ago, in Benin , Governor Igbinedion said it is the right thing to do. It should be done. The governor of Cross River State said anyday, anywhere you hardly regulate any commodity and it never works and that it is economic inevitability and should be done. Two days ago, we were in Bauchi, the governor said that it is not only the right thing to do, that it must be done, it should be done now.

We have been to Minna and the story is the same. In Rivers State, the governor said that as soon as we liberalise, he will build a refinery. You know what? 100,000 barrel per day refinery today will involve an investment of about $1.2 billion. Can you imagine sinking $1.2 billion into Port Harcourt? What is the implication? More jobs will be created. We are talking of unemployment. Do you know how many people that will be employed? Now, world-wide the refining margin is an average of four dollars per barrel , so when you compute that it gives you some $12 million a month. That state government will normally have about 40 percent participation. Do you know what that does in comparison to waiting for what comes up from the federation account?

When we talk about generating funds internally, liberalisation will perform the magic. What about social services and the governor did not mince words at all in endorsing liberalisation and there have been applause everywhere we have gone. So, how do you think I feel? I feel satisfied. So that is the answer to that.

Now, let me answer the second part of the question. You talk of the masses, some people are saying that they don’t want liberalisation because they are protecting the masses and I want you to answer this question: My father lives in the village, very humble farmer, comes to Lagos once in a year to visit me. When he is coming, he boards one of these big buses. Between him and me, who do you think consumes more fuel?

Newswatch: You

Kupolokun: Fine. Between him and me, who is the rich man and who is the poor man in relative terms?

Newswatch: In relative terms your father is the poor man and you are the rich man.

Kupolokun: Now that you agree that my father is the poor man and I am the rich, if we say we  must give price support to petroleum consumption, who are we supporting more between the two? The man who consumes more, isn’t it? So, you are giving me more of the support. If this support is coming from the same pot which in this case is the federation account, one single pot we have been dipping hands into, they say one man’s gain is another man’s loss. Therefore, you know what you are doing? You are robbing Peter to pay Paul. The 21st century Peter in Nigeria is actually the poor man, the rich man is Paul. Therefore, without doubt in my mind, this arrangement today means enriching the rich at the expense of the poor.  So, when people  say they are supporting the poor, it is either that they do not understand how these things work or there’s a little bit of mischief.

Newswatch: Can you explain where the subsidy is coming from? Government talks of subsidy, the NLC and some other people say  there is no subsidy. Where is the subsidy coming from?

Kupolokun: It is as simple as ABC. Today, crude is given to NNPC at $9.50 per barrel that converts roughly to N5.00 per litre. If you run 300,000 barrels per day for 365 days a year, the crude allocation  before now, that means government will get N87 billion. However, if you take an average price in the international market of about $25 per barrel and do 300,000 barrels per day for 365 days a year, the difference between the two is a gap of $1.8 billion.

There are two problems in this. This gap, if available could be channelled properly to other pressing needs. Like I have said earlier, if you keep maintaining this subsidy in the name of subsidising the masses, it is either that one is dishonest or one does not understand that you are subsidising the rich at the expense of the poor. So, you can agree with me that it is unnecessary.

Also, if this remains there, you cannot liberalise the industry. The monopoly of the NNPC will remain there and people will continue to talk about the inefficiency of the NNPC. The day you liberalise, if you do not like the services of NNPC, why should you patronise the NNPC?

Newswatch: What will be the relationship between the NNPC, PPMC, the  ministry of petroleum resources and the DPR in the post-liberalisation era?

Kupolokun: We are reviewing the structure of the industry. The fact that we have liberalised does not in any way affect the role of DPR as the regulatory body for the industry. It regulates the marketers, it regulates the upstream companies, and it regulates NNPC as well. The role of NNPC will not have changed as the commercial arm and it will be doing business as usual. The ministry of petroleum resources will always be there to take care of policies and long term plans. It is only that in this case NNPC will no longer be the only participant in the downstream business of supply and distribution; there will be all others and you  and I will be free to decide whether or not we want to buy  from NNPC. And if NNPC does not shape up, it will slip out because you can only be in business when you do business the way others do business.

Newswatch: When you were explaining the difference under subsidy, you put the price at $25 per barrel in the international market, what of when the price goes up or goes down like we had when oil was selling for nine dollars in the international market and we didn’t get any difference in the price here? It didn’t affect anything. Is there going to be a mechanism for adjusting the price of petroleum products once the price also drops in the international market?

Kupolokun: That is exactly what we are talking about. The reason we are not saying the upward or downward adjustment is because we have a tightly regulated system, so whether price is $9.50, you sell at N22, if the price is $25, you still sell at N22, if price of crude is $50, you sell at N22. That is what you get in a regulated system. The moment you liberalise completely, do you know what will happen? Marketers, refiners, including NNPC and real investors will take crude at international market price, put their refining cost on top, a little bit of the margin and that becomes the price they are going to sell. So, if crude price goes to $10 per barrel, that will reflect immediately at the pump. If you don’t reflect it at the pump nobody will patronise your petrol station. The man who is smart will reflect his own. Let me give you an example. The other day I got to the airport, I told somebody to buy me a ticket from the airline I like to patronise. I gave him N6,000 and he came back to tell me it is now N7,500. I said, ah! since when, then I paid and I got the ticket. Two weeks after, I came back to the same airport, I gave N7,500 to the same person to  buy me a ticket from the same airline and when he came back, he said, Oga, it is now N6,000, take back your N1,500. I don’t need to tell you what has happened. That particular airline tried a fast one, when they found that nobody was ready to do business with them, they trotted back. So, the moment you liberalise, the competition will force prices downwards because they will be checkmating one another.

Having said that, it is not as if everything will be left open like that because you could have some areas where you do not have many participants and you do not want them to form cartel. So, there will be a regulatory body, not necessarily to regulate what the pump price will be, but will look at all the developments in the industry and know what is required. Like in Ghana, they have what is called the snake mechanism. The body will determine a channel within which your price can move. So, if you like, you can sell close to the top of the channel but in determining the channel they will ensure that cost will be recovered by all the participants in the chain and there will be some element of profit for all the participants in the chain and for the different participants to manoeuvre, because liberation is about the right to choose. If I have a petrol station that is fine and dandy, you may decide to buy from me even if mine is a little bit more costly. If I have just one pump in one corner outside the town, and sell at one naira less, you may decide that you would rather drive to the place and buy. So, there will be that wide channel for them to move. If you like, you can sell very close to the top of the channel. If you have enough volume, fine and dandy for you. But when you don’t have enough volume, you may decide to sell in the middle of   the channel or if you really need volume you can sell at the bottom of the channel. But one thing you will not do is to put any price beyond the top of the channel. Nobody will tell you that it is N22 or N20, but you have a channel which will make sure that everybody is recovering cost.

Newswatch: There is this notion that liberalisation will stop smuggling. Will it eventually stop cross border leakage of petroleum products?

Kupolokun: Interesting. Now, the prices of our neighbours is quite high. For you to completely stop smuggling you must have a price here that is comparable with the prices of your neighbours. But as long as there is a gap, as long as there is commercial incentive, there will be smuggling. Even the US today is still battling with drug trafficking for all the sophistication because as there is financial incentive, people will do the business.

Now, if I tell you that if we liberalise today, tomorrow, there will be no smuggling or tendency to smuggle, then maybe I am not saying it the way it is. The truth is this, the price of our neighbours, 50 percent of the pump price they have is tax. On average, in these countries, the tax element is N30.00 per litre. The Gbadamosi committee is not canvassing that. The government  is not canvassing taxing anybody. All that government is saying is, let all the participants recover their costs for doing business and having a little bit of margin so that the business  can be sustainable. Therefore there will always be a substantial gap between the price in Nigeria and that of our neighbours. That is why when people say that prices will go to the  roof, they are lying. Because price will not go to the roof, there will always be a substantial gap between our price in a liberalised system and the prices of our neighbours because our neighbours are capturing tax as much as N30.00 per litre on average and as long as there is a N30.00 a litre difference between us, what then will happen is that there will be a gap. For instance, if you take a 30,000 litre truck from Nigeria and there is that gap of N30.00 per litre, that is some N900,000 a truck, so that will still be good business for people to do cross border leakage.

For us to say we want to stop smuggling, it means we must take our prices close to where our neighbours are, but that is not the intention of government. And I don’t think there is any Nigerian that is ready to pay N70  per litre.  So if I tell you that if we liberalise today, there will be no financial incentive for smuggling, that cannot be correct and I don’t say things that I cannot stand by to confirm in two years from now.

Newswatch: We have in Nigeria, oil-producing communities that are very strategic in the whole scheme of things. How are the interest of the oil-producing communities to be protected under this liberalisation scheme?

Kupolokun: Liberalisation means a win for everybody.  As far as I know, liberalisation is one formula I have seen in so many years that means win for everybody. You go to the North, in most of the cities there, take Maiduguri, take Sokoto, they get the product supply at N60.00, N70.00, sometimes N80.00 per litre. When you liberalise that will never happen. Now coming to the riverine areas, there is this same problem. Because of the multiple handling of products in the riverine areas, you find out that if they get it to buy at all, the price is as much as N80.00 per litre. You know the reason? Because, nobody is willing to invest in a floating filling station. The moment there is liberalisation, there will be investment in floating filling stations. Once there is liberalisation, there will be filling stations in riverine areas like Abonema, etc. And they pay a little bit higher but they will not be ripped off the way they are being ripped off now.

Newswatch: In April, President Obasanjo met with the organised labour in Aso Rock and they agreed to set up a committee to harmonise their positions on the deregulation on the downstream sector of the oil industry. Could you tell us what the position is now?

Kupolokun: Let me tell you the good thing. The Gbadamosi committee spent three months going through all sorts of position papers. Experts, non-experts presented their position papers. Having gone through all these, the committee found that there was no other way out except to liberalise. But the good thing also is that labour agrees that liberalisation is the promised land. So, we are saying the same thing. The only slight difference is the modality. And they are talking of certain modalities. Of course, we need to talk on the modalities. But, I am an expert in this business. I have spent the last thirty years doing nothing other than the business of petroleum and we believe that what government is saying is right.

We had this seminar in Lagos recently with the business community. All the experts that came to speak, without exception including, the former special adviser on petroleum in the last government, former managing directors of refineries who have nothing to do with government today, former managing directors of marketing companies, people in business all endorsed the modality which the Gbadamosi committee proposed. And in the Gbadamosi  committee, I must tell you, we are 35 in number. Four from NLC and 31 from all walks of life. Eighty percent of these 31 have never earned a penny from government before. But faced with the facts, facts are facts, you can’t slant them. They decided that this is the right thing to do. PENGASSAN, NUPENG, the labour unions in the oil industry have said that they know where the shoe pinches and have said that it is the right thing to do.

The difference between us and the NLC, is not much. They mean well; we mean well. And one thing that pleases me is that we agree that the Promised Land is simply liberalisation but the modalities are slightly different. All we need is to explain things to ourselves. And what we are doing now is to enlighten the public in consonance with the recommendation of the Gbadamosi committee.

Newswatch: How much of petroleum products do we really consume in Nigeria? I have been hearing the figure 300,000 for the past 20 years.

Kupolokun: Crude allocation to NNPC in recent past is 300,000 barrels per day. When the refineries are working, they could refine up to 70 percent of it, sometimes they could refine much lower than that. But even when they refine much lower than that, they sell the crude and use the proceeds to procure products. So, in a way, it still boils down to the same thing. But what is the consumption  level? There are different studies. We have two studies done by different experts. One is a consulting firm in Germany looking at the consumption in the whole of Africa and the conclusion in these studies is that if there is no smuggling, if we consume rationally and there is no wastage, Nigeria should not consume far in excess of 200,000 barrels per day. But before now the crude allocation is 300,000 barrels per day and we cannot meet the demand. Currently, we have 445,000 barrels per day consumption. Consumption is growing at an average of 15 percent per annum and quote me on this, there is no where else in the world where consumption escalates by 15 percent per annum. We must pull back and ask ourselves, what is happening? And if consumption continues to grow at 15 percent per annum, five years from now, what do you think we will be consuming and where do we find money for other things? No more schools, potable water, crisis in the NNPC product. Oh! As much as we consume these products, it does not matter whether it is going elsewhere. We wait for manna to fall down from heaven but in the 21st century there is no manna; you have to provide for yourself.

Newswatch: Recently, President Obasanjo said that the price of petrol will not be more than N40 per litre when the downstream sector of the oil industry is liberalised. Does this not suggest that liberalisation is all about increase in prices of petroleum products?

Kupolokun:  I do not know what the price will be because like I told you, liberalisation means making sure that all the elements in the market are reflected. So, if prices of crude go down, that will be reflected, if it stays where it is today, that will be the number. But one thing I do know is that crude prices are not likely to go much further to where it got to about a year ago at about $30 per barrel. Therefore, the president is quite right that in no circumstance can  I today foresee a liberalised price in excess of N40,  it could be less. It would only be less but what the number is,  I don’t  know, because I don’t cross a bridge until I get there; because these things vary as the crude oil price moves in the market. .

Newswatch Volume 33 No 22, June 4, 2001

Book Review: Civilain Dictators of Africa by Shehu Sani, written by Bayode Ogunmupe

Book Review: Civilian Dictators of Africa by Shehu Sani
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 23:25
Written by Bayo Ogunmupe
THE book, Civilian Dictators of Africa is a detailed, well-researched document on the evolution and consequences of civilian dictatorship on the African continent and beyond. Bad government caused by the ignorance of democracy has left Africa tottering on the edge of instability for decades. In this book, Shehu Sani, the author has taken a critical look at every aspect of civilian dictatorship in Africa. He concludes that redressing the imbalance of leadership remains the only way out of this sad state of affairs.

Further, Sani redefines steps by which Africa's responsibility can be restored in the comity of nations. In the preface, the author avers that the book was written with the aim of contributing to the promotion and sustenance of good governance in Africa and beyond.

According to him, Africa, believed to be the birth-place of the human race, is supposed to lead and in the process provide leadership in all areas of human endeavours, particularly in governance. But regrettably, this has not been so, and therefore, the continent has been bedevilled by border disputes, ethno-religious conflicts, poverty, corruption and terrorism.

But in the on-going evolution of a democratic culture in Africa, attempts are being made to providing leadership for the continent. Thus, these efforts have become platforms through which the challenges and problems confronting African nation are addressed.

The benefits of democracy make it a preferable system of government. Hence its common adoption in most African countries irrespective of the argument in favour of authoritarianism is being proposed as better suited for liberating illiterate Africa.

Structurally, the book is in three parts with 10 chapters. Chapter one is an overview of the African dilemma. Africa is projected as one of the seven continents of the world, inhabited by 900 million people, and comprises 53 countries. For the purpose of this review, Africa has been broken into six regions.

Geographically, Africa has the highest birth rate among the seven continents. Between 2000 and 3000 languages are spoken with Swahili, Hausa and Yoruba being the most widely spoken. These languages and the associated cultures were not given much consideration in the carving up of Africa by the colonialists.

Consequently, decolonisation could not rise beyond ethnic identities and politics to assume national identities.

African economy, according to the author, constitutes traditional and modern sectors. The traditional sector is largely agrarian and based in the rural areas. It feeds the modern service providing mining and low level industrial sector based in the cities.

Africa's role in world trade and economics remains the production of raw materials for use in the industrially advanced countries. Thus, Africa's trade position has been worsening since the 1960s, with many countries resorting to borrowing from Europe and North America.

Chapter two deals with systems of government in Africa. It examines democracy versus authoritarianism with notes on anarchism, concluding with debates on the weaknesses of democracy.

Dictators around the world is the focus of chapter three. From Asia, we have Chiang Kaishek, leader of China and Taiwan between 1949 and 1975; Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran from 1941 to 1979; and Ho Chi Minh, the president of Vietnam from 1945 to 1969.

Other prominent Asian dictators include Thojib Suharto of Indonesia, Hafez Al Assad of Syria and Pol Pot of Cambodia.

Dictatorial examples from Europe were, Oliver Cromwell of Britain; Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France; Antonio de Salazar of Portugal; and Francisco Franco of Spain. The list includes Leonid Brezhnev of Russia and Erich Honecker of East Germany.

From the Americas, there were Rafael Trujillo of Dominican Republic; Fulgencio Batista of Cuba; Anastasio Somaza of Nicaragua; and Fidel Castro of Cuba. In addition, we have Manuel Noriega of Panama; Juan Peron of Argentina and Augusto Pinochet of Chile.

In part two, we have the civilian dictators of Africa. Here we have Dos Santos of Angola; Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire; Omar Bongo of Gabon, Frederick Chiluba of Zambia.

Others are Ahmed Abdulla of Comoros; Haile Selassie of Ethiopia; Hosni Mubarak of Egypt; Muamar Gaddafi of Libya; and Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia. In all, more states experienced dictatorship in Africa than other continents.

In part three, Sani summarises his conclusions and recommendations. He notes that democracy fails in Africa because of illiteracy.

Also, because of the existing authoritarian political structure, the culture of democracy has not been allowed to take root. Besides, colonial hangovers of manipulation and meddlesomeness have impeded democratic growth in Africa.

Indeed, the restive military have to be taught to respect constituted authority. For the way forward, Sani recommends mass literacy, greater self-reliance among the citizenry through self-employment. The author posits the need to evolve an African brand of democracy suited to our own culture and awareness.

Sani is a renowned civil rights activist and writer. He is the president of Civil Rights Congress (CRC) and chairman of Hand-in-Hand Africa. He is a leading figure in the movement for democracy in Nigeria and had been imprisoned by military government in Nigeria. He has written more than seven books and received several literary awards and honours. He was also awarded a honorary doctorate degree by the Nigerian Institute of Continuing Education.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

My Books

You can obtain my book, Nigerian Politics In The Age of Yar'Adua., by Bayode Ogunmupe at www.amazon.com. You can also obtain it at www.myeexpert.com.
Upcoming books inlude the following:
Visionary Leaders
On the path of winners

Enjoy!

About Bayode Ogunmupe

Bayode Ogunmupe, journalist, economist and literary critic was bornon 18th April 1948 at Abope, Osun State of Nigeria. Educated at the International School, Ibadan; University of Ibadan; University of Geneva and the London School of Economics, UK; he holds degrees in History, Economics and Business Administration. 

Ogunmupe has been Political Editor, Daily Sketch; Production Editor, Nigerian Tribune; Senior Sub Editor, Daily Times; Associate Editor, Newswatch and Economic columnist and literary critic for The Guardian.

He won awards in the Nigerian Media Merit Awards in 1993 and the Ladi Lawal Journalist of the Year Award in 2010

Character: A key To Success

REPUTATION is what folks think you are, personality is what your physical appearance makes of you while character is what you really are. Before us lies two paths, one of which is paved with character. Wise ones embark on the path of character while the ignorant and uncaring journey on the other.

Before we delve into developing character, we need to define character. Awareness of the definition of character will point you in the right direction but it is up to you to walk the path of character.

Character is the core of what you are. It is what you do, the way you live, how you treat others, your responses and the choices you make. It is who you are in private, when nobody is looking. Character is what governs your life, it isn’t compromising, it is not saying one thing and doing another.

It is more than knowing right from wrong. It is acting on the principle of what is right. People of character live with nothing to hide and nothing to prove. They walk with freedom and security. They think before they act, practice self control, delay gratification, walk their talk, are trustworthy and persevere in tough times. They seek the wisdom of others and apply it in their daily lives. They are not superficial. What you see is what you get. They value themselves knowing that life has no duplicate. Simply, your behaviour is your character, character is living your life by a standard, ideology or principles.
Character is doing what you ought to do whether you like it or not. It is integrity, which does not compromise right. A person of character does not cut corners in life, he is consistent, treats others with respect and follows through with his commitments. Character means desiring to make wise decisions, willing to learn, being aware of the consequences of his actions.

Also, character is a choice. And choices determine where you go, what you get, who you become and the success you make. When you think, plan, create, hate, build or help, you are making choices. In life, every step you take is a choice you make. Life is about choices which is why character is a choice.

You may have made some mistakes in your past. Today I offer you a fresh start and opportunity to walk with me and grow in ways that you have never imagined. I want you to imagine for a moment that you are starting to build the house of your dreams. Now, you don’t want this house to cave in on you while you are sleeping, or when the first storm comes. This house is your home. You are going to live there the rest of your life. So you will want to build it with strong materials, because you want this house to be strong.

In essence, this is a metaphor for your life. You are going to be in your body for a lifetime. Do you build your character, which is the core of your being with unstable materials? The choice is yours. So, making better choices in life starts with asking better questions. Great wisdom comes from the counsel of others. It’s taking the time to ask your peers about the choices laid before you. Make sure you asked someone who is willing to give you the best advice regardless of how you feel, or whether you will get mad at him.

Take the time to the think about your choices.
Character starts with personal responsibility. Soar with the strength of your own wings. When I think of my life I think of the words: personal responsibility. We are responsible for our lives. I can’t tell you how many times people come up to me complaining about their lives. What they are really doing is blaming others for their problems or lack of success. There are so many people in this country who lack character. This is true of the world we live in, so watch out!

When they disagree with you, some of them would want to hurt you. They will revenge for your success, throw mud at you. Others could do worse, slandering you without reason, out of jealousy. They do so out of lack of character, they don’t know what personal responsibility is. Their beliefs about responsibility are jaded by falsehood and compromise. People of character accept personal responsibility for their lives. People of character know that even sometimes they have to claim ownership to something that wasn’t even their fault. Being responsible is being a giant when it comes to having solid character. If the archer missed the target, he has no one to blame but himself. You are the archer, you have no one to blame but yourself if you are not succeeding. No one owes you a single favour, not the guy next door nor your parents. You were born with your own set of wings designed for the purpose of soaring. If you are not using your wings, no one is to blame. You have to take responsibility for your own life.

For our champion of today, let us visit the face-off between Mr. Justice Isa Ayo Salami, the President of the Federal Court of Appeal and Mr. Justice Katsina Alu, the Chief Justice of Nigeria. The late Chief Gani Fawehinmi foresaw these problems when in a 2001 interview I anchored for Newswatch, he said our judiciary was poorly managed. He argued that judgements of both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court were minority judgements, that the entire membership of the court should be judging the cases, not committees of them.

Surprisingly, Britain dumped that committee system when Tony Blair, the British Premier created the Supreme Court for Britain in 2001. Britain adopted the American judicial system which Gani advocated during his lifetime. The architect of the American system is our champion for today. He is John Marshall 1755 – 1835. He was born near Germantown in Virginia, USA the fourth chief justice of the United States and founder of the U.S. system of constitutional law, including the doctrine of judicial review. During his tenure, he participated in more than a thousand decisions, writing 519 of them himself.

Educated by tutors, John Marshall was the eldest of 15 children of Thomas Marshall and Mary Keith Marshall. John was licensed to practise law in 1780 and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782 and 1784. He established in Virginia both a brilliant law practice and a home after marriage to Mary Ambler in 1783. He was elected delegate to the National Convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution. In 1795, President George Washington tendered him appointment as Attorney General, which Marshall declined Marshall however accepted membership of commission by President John Adams. Thereafter, he was elected a member of the House of Representatives from Virginia.

In 1800, President Adams appointed Marshall as the Secretary of State but due to a vacancy at the Supreme Court he was nominated for Chief Justice which senate approved in 1801. At the Supreme Court, Marshall set out for reform. From the committee system he inherited, he adapted court to judgements by all the members. Thereafter it became the general rule that there was only one single opinion from the Supreme Court. This change of practice contributed to make the U.S.
Supreme court a more effective institution. It is this kind of change we need in our dispensation of justice. Let all members of the Supreme Court decide each case that reaches it instead of a committee of cronies chosen by the Chief Justice.

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The Miracle of Discipline

NOT all of us know and want the same things. But we all know what to do to achieve them. Sometime we need to take a vacation to a wonderful fantasy place called Someday Isle. We say that someday we will read that book. Someday, I will upgrade my computer skills to earn more money.

Probably 80 per cent of the population of this country live on someday island. They dream and fantasise about all things they are going to do “someday.” At someday Island they come down with the disease of excusitis which is invariably fatal to success. But the first rule of success is to vote yourself out of the Someday Island. No more excuses. Stop using your brain to think up elaborate rationalisations and justifications for not taking action. Do something now. Do anything. Get on with it. Losers make excuses, winners make progress. It has been said that if people put as much energy into achieving their goals as they spend making up excuses for failure, they would actually surprise themselves. But first you have to vote yourself out of the Someday Island.

Basically however, it is self-discipline that enables you to vote yourself off the Someday Island. This is the key to the success life. Without it no lasting success is possible in life. My development of self-discipline changed my life. It will change yours too. By continually demanding more from myself, I was able to catch up with my schooling. I took a master’s degree in my forties – which required thousands of hours of determined study. I discovered you can achieve any goal if you have the discipline to pay the price, to do what you need to do and to never give up.

The most important success principle of all was stated by Elbert Hubbard, one of the greatest historians of the USA, at the beginning of the 20th century. He said, self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not. There are 99 other success principles I have found in my reading and experience, but without self-discipline none of them work. With self-discipline nothing is impossible for your attainment. Thus, self-discipline is the key to personal greatness. It is the magic wand that opens all doors for you and makes everything possible. Which is why a person without self-discipline, even though with every blessing of background, education and opportunity will seldom rise above mediocrity. Just as lack of self-discipline is the major cause of failure, so are the two biggest enemies of success are first, the Path of Least Resistance and second, the Expediency Factor.

The Path of Least Resistance is what causes people to take the easy way out in every situation. They seek shortcuts to everything. They arrive at work at the last minute, position themselves and their cars to depart at the first opportunity. They look for get rich quick schemes and easy money.

Over time, they develop the habit of always seeking easy, faster ways to get the things they want, rather than doing what is hard but necessary to achieve real success.

The Expediency Factor, which is an extension of the law of least resistance, is even worse in its power to lead people to failure and under-achievement. It says, people invariably seek the fastest and easiest way to get the things they want, with little or no concern for the long-term consequences of their behaviour. Thus, most people do what is expedient rather than what is necessary for success. So, everyday, you must fight and win this battle with the Expediency Factor by resisting the pull of the Path of Least Resistance if you truly desire to become everything you are capable of becoming. Thus, you are what you repeatedly do, which is why excellence is a habit.

Another definition of self-discipline is self-mastery. You may only attain success when you can master your emotions, appetites and inclinations. People who lack such self-control become weak, dissolute and unreliable. Self-discipline is also defined as self-control. Your ability to control yourself, control what you say and behave consistent with your long-term goals is the hallmark of the superior person. Also, discipline has been defined as self-denial. This requires that you deny yourself of pleasures, the temptations that lead many people astray. Thus, self-discipline requires delayed gratification, the ability to put off satisfaction in the short-term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term.

In the 1960s, Dr. Edward Banfield, a Harvard University sociologist conducted a fifty-year study into the reason why some succeed where others fail in the United States. In his study, he found that the most important single attribute of people who achieve great success in life was, “long term perspective.” Banfield defined time perspective as “the amount of time an individual takes into consideration when determining his present actions.” In other words, the most successful people are long-term thinkers. They look into the future as far as they can to determine the kind of people they want to become. In fact, they set their role models as Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi or Thomas Jefferson. This practice of long-term thinking applies to work, career, marriage and personal conduct. Successful people ensure that whatever they do in the short term is consistent with where they want to be in the long term. Perhaps the most important word in long-term thinking is sacrifice. Great people have been found throughout their lives to make sacrifices in the short-term, so as to assure greater results and rewards in the long term.

Our champion for today is Norman Ernest Borlaug – A central figure in green revolution, Borlaug was born in a farm near Cresco, Iowa, United States in March 1914 to Henry and Clara Borlaug. Norman is a plant pathologist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1970. He is the one who laid the groundwork of the Green Revolution, the technological advance in agriculture that promised to alleviate world hunger.

He studied plant pathology at the University of Minnesota, earning a doctorate there in 1941. From 1944 to 1960, he researched for the Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico. There, he developed strains of grain that dramatically increased crop yields. Wheat production in Mexico multiplied three-fold at the time he worked with the Mexican government. His methods were responsible for a 60 per cent increase in wheat harvest in Pakistan and India. He also created a wheat-rye hybrid known as triticale.

Borlaug served as director of the Inter-American Food Crop Programme (1960-63) and as director of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, Mexico City, from 1964 to 1979. In constant demand as a consultant, Borlaug has served on numerous committees and advisory councils on agriculture, population control and renewable resources. He was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition for his devotion to the abolition of hunger from the globe. He is still alive and kicking at 97.

How To Win Happiness

THE fact that we are of the common lot of mankind is no hindrance to greatness. It only serves to remind us of the mighty power of God, accomplishing His purpose in men who are fully yielded to His control. After all, His power resides in your subconscious mind. It isn’t who we are but who God is that makes the difference. Allah would not cast His pearls before those who did not want them.

Besides, unless you grasped the meaning of prayer and learned how to practise it consistently, not much would ever come from your life. In practical terms we live by what we do. Which is why learning by doing is the ultimate school of life. Emerson Fosdick said, “No life ever grow great until it is focused, dedicated and disciplined.” Thus, your ability to win happiness is the true measure of your success in life. Happiness is the ultimate goal of life. If you accomplish every material particular in your life but you are not happy, you have actually failed at fulfilling your full potential as a human being.

It is only when you are in complete control of your life that you are truly happy. Brian Tracy in his book: Maximum Achievement, taught the importance of the Law of Control, which states that, “you feel happy to the degree to which you feel you are in control of your life. You feel unhappy to the degree to which you feel you are not in control of others. Psychologists call this locus of control. Fifty years of research on this subject concludes that stress and unhappiness arise when you feel controlled by others or outside circumstances. This explains the difference between an internal locus of control meaning happiness and an external locus of control, which means unhappiness.

When you have an internal locus of control, you are happy, you feel you are in charge of your life, you are behind the wheel on the driver’s seat. You are determining what happens to you, thus, you feel strong, purposeful and happy. An example of external locus of control is when you are controlled by a bad marriage or relationship from which you cannot escape. You may feel controlled by your bills, by the money you owe and your obligations to maintain your standard of living. The key to replacing an external locus of control with an internal locus is for you to decide today to take complete charge of your life. You must accept that you make your own decisions and that you are where you are and what you are because of yourself. What to do is for you to discipline yourself to do whatever it takes to change the situation. The essence of happiness is found in the old saying: Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get. When your income and life are consistent with your goals and expectations and you are content with your situation, that is happiness. However, happiness is a by-product that comes to you when you are engaged in doing something that you enjoy. Happiness isn’t a goal that you can aim at and achieve of itself. Thus, happiness is the systematic realization of a cherished goal. Whenever you are moving step by step towards achieving a goal, you automatically become happy. Here are five ingredients of happiness.

One, having good health and energy; two, maintaining harmonious relationships. Three, meaningful work, being able to keep an active and fulfilling job. To be truly happy you must be engaged in some form of work. Four, financial freedom, our greatest fears are of being destitute and dependent on others. The happiest people are those devoid of financial worries. Financial freedom cannot be left to chance. It has to be planned and achieved. Finally, self actualization. This is the feeling of self satisfaction, of achieving what you are capable of becoming. The famous sociologist, Abraham Maslow is best known for his Hierarchy of Needs. People strive either to compensate for their deficiencies or to realize their potentials. Deficiency needs are safety and survival. Others are security, belongingness and self esteem. But the highest human need is self actualization. Maslow concludes that less than two per cent of the population ever reaches their height of personal fulfillment.

Our champion today is Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Saudi Arabian politician who was minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources from 1962 till 1986, a minister in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for 25 years.

Yamani was born in Mecca in June 1930, one of three children of his father, Hassan Yamani, a judge in Hejaz and a respected Islamic Scholar. His father also worked as appeal court justice in Indonesia and Malaysia. Yamani’s grandfather was a justice of appeal in Turkey. The Yamani surname originates from Yemen where his paternal grandfathers came from.

At 17, Yamani entered Cairo University and earned a bachelor’s degree in law in 1951. Inspired by his father and grand father, Yamani sought to become a teacher of Sharia. But on leaving college, Yamani got a job at the Ministry of Finance in Mecca, teaching Sharia law in his own time.

Later, the Saudi government sent Yamani to study Comparative Law at the New York University Law School and in 1955 he received the LLM degree in Comparative Jurisprudence. While at NYU, Yamani met his first wife, Laila, from Iraq. Thereafter, Yamani spent a year at Harvard Law School, earning his second master’s in 1956. Then he returned to the Ministry of Finance. The same year he founded his own private law firm where he practiced.

Yamani married his second wife, Tammam in March 1975. In 1957, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Faisal bin Abdelaziz invited Yamani to work as his legal Adviser. In 1962, King Saud appointed Yamani Oil Minister, replacing Abdallah Tariki, the founding father of OPEC. Although the suave Yamani is distinguished from his fiery predecessor, he had a common goal with Tariki in moving towards the nationalization of Aramco Oil Company, the operating oil company in Saudi Arabia at the time. Thereafter, Yamani established the Petroleum and Mineral Organisation (Petromin) as a state oil company. Further in 1964, he established the University of Petroleum with the aim of producing Saudis with the skills to manage Saudi oil resources. Following OPEC negotiations in 1972, the Saudi government bought 25 per cent ownership of Aramco. In 1974 Saudi participation increased to 60 per cent and in 1976 total Saudi ownership of Aramco was agreed upon.

As Oil Minister of oil rich Saudi Arabia, Yamani was noted as having a moderate oil policy. Faced with the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Yamani opposed the Arab oil embargo, to the displeasure of Israel’s Arab neighbours and Iraq. The oil embargo was ineffective, this led to the formation in 1968 of the organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Libya. Egypt, Syria and Iraq joined later.

Following the humiliation of the Arabs by the Six Day War, demands for the use of oil as a weapon of war intensified throughout the Arab world. In October 1973, six Persian Gulf Oil Producers met in Kuwait and raised oil prices by 70 per cent, that was the first time oil producers would set the price of their oil. Thus, Arab oil producers in unison cut back oil output, forcing the U.S., the EEC and Japan to call on Israel to withdraw from Arab territories. The embargo was lifted in 1974 following Arab disengagement agreements with Israel.

However, in March 1975 Yamani’s friend King Faisal was assassinated by Faisal bin Musad, the King’s nephew. Buoyed by his global pre-eminence, Yamani remained oil minister for another eleven years. But in December 1975, Yamani survived as a hostage of the terrorist Carlos the Jackal in Vienna, Austria. In 1979, the Iranian Revolution resulted in the 1979 energy crisis. Saudi Arabia increased oil production to replace that lost from Iran. The panic buying of 1979 led to oil glut in the 1980s. Then King Khaled died in June 1982, then Prince Fahd became King and Premier. King Fahd’s rule was marred by reduced oil income making him to demand the increase in the price of oil. Yamani refused to acceed to his request and on October 29, 1986, King Fahd dismissed Sheikh Yamani as Saudi Oil Minister. He was replaced by Hisham Nazer. Yamani is still alive.