WHAT can you say about Nigeria, its achievements and challenges so far?
Nigeria at 60, what is in a number? Sixty years is more than the average age of Nigerians nowadays. Nigeria is no longer a young country. Nigeria must therefore be placed on the same pedestal with countries that got independence almost at the same time. Although some people argue that countries like the USA took well over two hundred years to stabilise, but that was then. Any country nowadays should be able to grow faster because of modern technology and other advancements. The way we started was not bad, I am not talking about the unification or amalgamation, because that is faulty and that is where we are suffering from. When we look at people coming together, they must have had common experiences. In Nigeria, the three regions did not have common experiences other than let Nigeria be. Take the USA for example; the desire to be independent, to be free, knit them together. They had bitter experiences but in Nigeria we didn’t have, but that is not to say that we should not have done better in 60 years. We didn’t start too badly. Our founding fathers precisely the three premiers were very patriotic. I am talking of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe and the Sarduana of Sokoto.
They were dedicated and ran a parliamentary system whereby every region was able to develop at their own pace and used its resources in develop its own states. That was the period Awolowo was able to do a lot of things, recording a lot of firsts, not only in Nigeria but in the whole African continent. Some of the firsts he created included the first television in the whole of Africa, the first stadium in Ibadan, the first industrial hub in Ikeja, and many others. He ran a government that was focused, a government that was people-based, a government that was industry-based, education-based, free education, free health, and integrated developments.
We can say that was our golden age of governance in this country. The contract between the governed and those governing them was maintained. But by 1960, we saw a threat to the federal structure when the three gentlemen were aspiring to go the center to contest to be prime minister of the country. The contest led to a lot of bias and prejudice among them, leading to the idea of census, using number. That was when the problem started. During the election they were allegations of bribery, corruption and electoral fraud here and there and rigging.
When the army came in, they came with the military structure which is alien to the civilian culture. This is an anathema to democracy. The military rules by decrees, no consensus or democracy; we remember how long the military either stayed in government or got in and came out intermittently to the extent that some people forgot and lost sense of democracy; some of the rulers aligned with the military because they enjoyed the military structure and betrayed the contract between the people and those ruling the people.
Even when we returned to civilian rule in 1999, Nigeria’s president was a former military ruler, Olusegun Obasanjo. He was still using the military system and the military instinct was still in him. Take for instance the way he mauled the whole of Odi town when there was a problem, destroying the whole town.
The last few years have not been very good; there have been a carryover of bad things in our governance, like corruption and nepotism. What we have been saying is that the way to address them is to have a true federal system whereby the states can be independent as they were during the time of Awolowo, Zik and Sarduana; where we can have state police; where the Federal Government will allow the state governments to develop at their pace; where the Federal Government will shed some of its powers: in education, agriculture and some other areas.
Look at the last water bill; it is terrible. Do they want to take over everything? This cannot work. That’s why we say this country has to be restructured. Somebody said it and I agree with him that Nigeria has the most powerful president in the world.
There seems to be some missing links in the country’s democratic practice militating against the growth of this nation. Why is this so?
If states are allowed to develop at their pace, there will be healthy competition. They will compete for progress, compete for the industrialisation of their states, and compete for better education. Why can’t the Federal Government tell the state governors to develop their states? Every state in the country, according to a research, has enough mineral resources to cater to the well being of their citizens and more than enough to provide for good roads, education and other things. Why can’t the Federal Government allow the state police to exist? In civilised countries, the national police exist; the state police exist too. Do we have security in this country? This is a very terrible situation. We can’t go about freely again? How can we grow under this terrible situation? How can we grow when we have bad roads, when there is no employment for people, when our education system is worsening, when the health of our people is not properly addressed?
What do you think is responsible with our political elite? Despite their exposure to responsible, responsive and purposeful leaderships in other countries which they have visited, they provide problematic leadership to us.
The difference is clear. In the days of Awolowo, Zik and Sardauna, they were patriotic. They were not gallivanting across the globe then; they had ideas; they settled down. They wanted economic development; for instance, how to turn cocoa around, this led to the establishment of cocoa board by Awolowo, to manage cocoa. He gave the management a free hand. He wanted free education, because he knew the value of education and he didn’t have to go outside the country to copy anybody’s style of education. He knew life would be better if everybody was able to get educated. He also believed that people would want jobs, after their studies.
They didn’t bring all these from outside the country but they were committed to the people. They were not there for themselves; they were there for the people and that was why the people supported them. How many houses did Papa Ajasin have? Just only one and he was governor. Many politicians have abandoned their responsibility, they no longer think of the people they represent. People are now on the fast lane for unmerited wealth and want to be billionaires overnight.
Why is the country not doing well in some critical areas such as economy, electoral reforms, and fight against corruption?
So many things could be responsible but again, if we are patriotic things will not be happening the way it is happening. You talked of the electoral system; why will it not be what it is? INEC is not independent. I think something has to be done with the way people get to that office.
Look at the issue of corruption. Nigerians that I know are people who are law abiding; they have respect for leadership. They will listen to their leaders; but the moment the leader starts doing what he said they should not do, they will beat him to the game. Corruption and nepotism are twin brothers. If you have a leader who does not see the whole country as his own constituency, but prefers a certain group to others, how can corruption not fester? If we have a leader who doesn’t employ inclusiveness in governance, how can corruption not fester? These are issues.
As to the economy, if the states are not allowed to develop on their own, you’re teaching them laziness and not allowing them to plan for the future.
We have abandoned our God-given resources. When you have a corrupt situation, some will feel better than others. How can the economy grow when the leaders are killing the economy, when it’s the leaders stealing from government coffers, when funds are allocated and most of it goes into private pockets? Look at what is happening in the Niger Delta Development Commission. How can the economy grow when there are terrible reports of billions of naira going down the drain? If money was so recklessly spent, how can an economy grow?
The economy cannot grow when things that will make the economy better are not taken care of. Our roads are bad; how can we carry goods from one place to another smoothly and safely? Or how can the economy grow when there is insecurity in the land and people cannot do their job well? When one does not have peace of mind to plan, when one is not happy with all that’s happening, how can the economy grow?
If you’re not corrupt, those under you will not be corrupt; it is not sufficient to say I am not corrupt. The leader must not be corrupt and must ensure that those under him are not corrupt.
What is the best approach to get Nigeria out of this current situation?
The solution is in the system of governance. Nigeria is going unitary, and of course a unitary system is like the military. Let the center relax and give more power to the states; there’s so much money at the center and this should not be so. The center should encourage the states to tap what they have and a percentage should be given to the center. Security of live has to be ensured; state police must be introduced. Let the head of state give us a sense of feeling that he’s the father of all. I see it as lack of inclusiveness not adopting the 2014 confab report. Nigerians came out with the report, spending about five months working on the report. He should quickly go back to it. It doesn’t take him any length of time to do so. Luckily his current Chief of Staff played a lead role; the report might not be perfect but let him go to the report. Everything Nigeria needs to improve upon and get back on track is there. Why are we wasting time? Why doesn’t he see Nigeria as one; why the delay? We need to work hard to restore the unity of this country. Nigeria has never been so badly divided and hardly can you get Nigerians of different tribes now to trust one another. The president must rise up and listen to the voice of reason and see how he can make things work. That’s just the way out.
YOU SHOULD NOT MISS THESE HEADLINES FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
The commitment by the Federal Government to increasing the local refining capacity, rehabilitate the four nation’s refineries, and promised delivery of licensed modular and regular ones are at the top of major considerations why the organised labour agreed to suspend the industrial strike and protests scheduled to commence on Monday nationwide.
Some leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the Northern part of the country on Sunday evening held talks with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta, Ogun State, in what they called an advocacy visit to the former leader.
Donald Trump paid just 750 dollars in federal income tax in 2016, the year he won the US presidential election, the New York Times wrote in an explosive investigative report late Sunday. | 2014 confab report | 2014 confab report | 2014 confab report | 2014 confab report
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