For one week of long sessions stretching into the early hours of the morning, with only a couple of hours sleep, the Senior Elder Citizens (ex-partners of KPMG who are still awaiting their gratuity and pension) have devoted their time, energy and skills to unravelling the mysteries of scenario analysis for which they (at their own expense) have engaged the services of renowned experts.
Just when we were at the final stages of the wrap up session, we were bowled over by the front page headline in several newspapers – alleging that a former military Head of State and past civilian president of our beloved country had mentioned the dreaded “C” word in far away Nairobi, Kenya. Pandemonium promptly ensued as each and every expert dashed for cover and safety. Believe you me, coup d’etat is no cocktail party !! Even our memory as well as our history will not subvert the harsh reality – for every coup d’etat we have had in this country, whether successful or failed; aborted or consummated; conceived or executed; phantom or real, there was always a much more grotesque counter-coup.
Even though the army has declared firmly that coup d’etats are no longer on its agenda and they no longer teach coup plotting at military schools as part of the syllabus, the Senior Elder Citizens have banned any reference to coup d’etat in their report. Instead the official report which will be released next week will confine itself to acknowledging that our nation is at a crossroads. If President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan wins the election, the north will be spoiling for revenge. Similarly, if General Muhammadu Buhari wins, the Niger Delta warlords would be spoiling for a showdown anchored on the threat of closure of the oil fields and devastation of the pipelines. All that is already in the public domain and the experts cannot lay legitimate claim to monopoly of knowledge as regards the critical tasks which whoever wins must tackle: The insurgency in the north (Boko Haram); the economy; education; health; job creation; corruption, transparency and accountability.
Our encounter with “foreign experts” was a shocking experience and revelation – we do not need foreigners to dissect or analyse our problems!! It is only our lack of confidence in ourselves and scant regard for the enormous intellectual resources we command that has plunged us into despair and made us slaves tow “elite capture”. There is too much agony in the land while we are twiddling our fingers and fumbling in darkness. We do not require foreigners to alert us about the alarming stockpiling of arms and ammunition as well as those who have been internally displaced by fear, trepidation, anxiety, apprehension, or the stark reality of dealing with suicide bombers, kidnappers and ruthless assassins at close range.
It is no comfort that we are part of the global village where rage, cruelty, wickedness and callousness reign supreme.
Right in the last phase of our “Close Out” session, “Breaking News” on CNN provided us with the chilling image and nauseating video released by ISIS militants showing a captured Jordanian pilot, Flight Lieutenant Muath al-Kasaesbeh in the agonising throes of death by fire. In the footage he is shown standing in a large cage, with bare feet and wearing an orange prison uniform which has been heavily doused with petrol. At his feet is a line of oil leading towards him. A few seconds after the oil has been lit, the victim who appeared to have been praying is engulfed in flames. He collapses. Indeed, he literally crumbles. Later, we would learn that he had been heavily drugged by his captors as a perverse act of mercy.
Before we could recover from the shock of what we had just witnessed on television, another “BREAKING NEWS” was flashing on CNN: “Elections in Nigeria Postponed for Six Weeks.” It was a bombshell!! For us the immediate problem was whether to retain the experts for another six weeks or send them packing. What we had in our report was the expected results if the elections had been held on Saturday February 14, 2015 as previously scheduled. Postponement by six weeks meant that we would have to commence our work all over again. In politics, a day is a long time not to talk of six weeks. We have been thoroughly shafted!! To further compound our problems the EXCHANGE RATEof the naira had crashed but the foreign experts insist on being paid in US dollars.
Our experience in this matter goes back to Nigeria’s first election in 1922 and we got it exactly right then. Indeed, we got all the subsequent elections right but this time round it is the smart guys who have pulled a fast one on us. Our detractors have been quick to lampoon us – if you could not predict the postponement of the elections, how can we trust you to predict the result when the elections eventually hold? Maybe we should have taken out an insurance policy – ARC (All Risks Covered) !!
The quandary in which we find ourselves has compelled us to remind ourselves of the core values of KPMG – Thoroughness and Professionalism. Hence, regardless of the ruinous costs, its back to the drawing board. Let us start with small steps. Indeed, sometimes you need a First Aid Box to deal with an avalanche. However, how do you deal with politicians who by their own confession have split into three major groups namely the singers, the dancers, and the magicians ?
The irony is that while impunity knows no bounds, it is we who are most vulnerable. We cannot even play the victim card even though we are so vulnerable. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are close to danger. The Cardinal amongst us has warned that disaster and chaos are lurking round the corner. Fortunately, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), was on BBC Hard Talk and he made it absolutely clear that any suggestion that the government has plans to install an interim administration is totally unfounded. There is no provision in the Nigerian constitution for any such contraption. He was however silent on the delicate matter of “Doctrine of Necessity” which has proved to be a grave yard for chartered accountants.
Anyway, if we get it wrong the choice is between broken hopes and civil war. What is being dangled before the electorate is the chance of prosperity versus poverty of austerity.
As for the assignment at hand, rather than surrender to despair we have to pull up our socks and roll up our sleeves. Our reputation and indeed our integrity are at stake. However, unlike before when we could logically proceed from what we know to what we do not know, now we are dealing with variables and imponderables. To quote the Cardinal, “Nigerians even lie when they turn up in church to confess their sins and wickedness. How much more when it comes to the simple task of telling pollsters who they are going to vote for? In the worst case scenario, they insist on collecting money or gifts – rice, sugar, salt, chicken etc. first.
However, what is even more reassuring is that the military top brass have firmly denied being privy to any plot to install an interim government as a precursor to military takeover with a coup d’etat as the boarding pass.
Anyway, we have our work cut out in predicting not only the election result but much more importantly the future of our beloved nation. It is no longer the straightforward logarithms of balancing variables against invariables. The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has reminded us that 55 per cent of our populations are women and they insist on their fundamental human rights – to remain unpredictable. In similar vein, Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been at pains to highlight what we ignore at our peril, 45 per cent of our voting populations are between 18 years old and 35 years old. They are mostly unemployed (or underemployed).
We cannot afford to ignore the observations of Dr. Jim Yong, the President of the World Bank, who rebuffed all entreaties by Richard Quest to persuade him to comment on the forthcoming elections. He chose his words carefully: “We are a bank and an institution. We do not dabble in the politics of individual nations. Of course, like every sensible institution we endeavour to manage our risks and exposures. We hire experts and we rely on them to assure us that the judiciary and the military will be impartial and that the integrity of the election will not be compromised. It is not out of turn for us to be concerned about the threat of violence. Our focus is always on the welfare of the people and the fight against poverty.”
As for our team, we shall not go to sleep while there is so much agony in the land. The voters are not planning to “vote for”, rather they are insisting on “voting against” (if they vote at all). Some will vote only for the president and skip the rest. They are sufficiently cheesed off and disillusioned to conclude that the dreaded “Boko Haram” are not the only terrorists in town. Some are even disguised as pollsters
who want to know their innermost secrets!!
That is why we are relying more and more on what we call the “Poll of Polls” [POP]. We collect all the data churned out by the numerous polls, sanitise them, eliminate contamination/bias and present what we hope will deliver the goods. On the eve of the election we shall publish what we have already shared with our clients regardless of uncertainties – ranging from further postponement, interim government, annulment, insurgency, kidnapping, fake ballot boxes and whether or not we actually know who and what we are voting for.