Nigeria and the only way forward
On this occasion of Nigeria’s Democracy Day, it is important to reflect once again on why Nigeria is where it is today and how the nation might realise its manifest destiny.Nineteen years into democratic rule, Nigeria remains richly blessed with globally acclaimed professionals and award-winners. It also has all it takes to be potentially self-reliant: Beautiful people of diverse backgrounds with varied histories and cultures and a natural environment that seems like paradise when compared with some other nations. In the light of the havoc wreaked on other peoples and places by the evils of nature is measured, Nigeria should appreciate the cosmic law of balance. By its location, the country is outside the world’s tectonic plates. It is not susceptible to earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions. No summer heatwaves, or winter frosts that kill in droves. Flooding in Nigeria seems like a child’s play when compared with the seasonal flooding of provinces in India or North and central Europe. Strategically located at the centre of the globe, Nigeria seems blessed from all angles.
Yet, Nigerians themselves are their own natural disasters!Nigeria is the only country where almost everything provided by nature is imported from less endowed nations; where in the midst of plenty, people are hungry. It is about the only independent state where noble minds are ruled over by ignoble characters.Wallowing in a bounty of wealth, Nigeria survives on the low quality products imported from countries less blessed. A country that produces Sweet Crude then curiously depends on the conspiracy of economic hitmen and buccaneers to degrade itself by becoming an importer of toxic fuel!
With subsistence comes diminishing standard of living and poor health conditions. And because Nigerians are accustomed to inadequate healthcare from poorly paid and overworked health workers who seem like undertakers rather than life savers, Nigeria has come to be desensitized by cheap death and low premium on life.Standing at about seven per cent of the national budget, spending on education is the clearest demonstration of government’s utter disregard for quality education. In its usual lip-service to the Universal Basic Education, the country manages a basic education system with a preponderance of private sector initiative and a negligent public system.
Nigeria therefore bears the brunt of a wobbly educational system, laced in obnoxious policies and cluelessness and manifest in the inability to empower the teeming youth population or solve problems. Nigeria tolerates profligacy, recklessness and impunity. The average worker receives N18, 000 per month as minimum wage, and still runs a home with wife and children but legislators annual salary of between N600 million and N1 billion does not rouse him to civic action. Nigerians have witnessed how public officers and politicians squander public wealth without recourse to public accountability; they know that politicians have rapacious capacities for looting public funds but still hail them or vote them into power.
The average state governor is a devil who behaves like God. Battered and oppressed into silence by the very servants who should be their advocates, Nigerians’ voices of anguish mean nothing to those in power and they are trampled upon by the same people in whom they repose their trust. In this country, thieves get national honours, and public servants get paid to steal, while lawmakers are venerated for breaking the laws.
Forced to emigrate by bad leadership and apparent despair in the land, Nigerians are lured by the myth of a Europe paved in gold. So, in desperate quest for making it by any means, they embark on a fatal voyage through the inhospitable Sahara Desert and tempestuous Mediterranean Sea to ‘grab gold’ in the streets of Europe. Not minding reports and global outcry against barbaric treatment of black African immigrants in Libya, Nigerians are so tenacious to risk their lives to make it.
Yet, Nigerians embody hope.So firmly rooted is their optimism and resilience that many Nigerians believe they would take the country to the moon, even though the government of the day is yet to provide basic electricity to up to half of the population.
In this story of the good, bad and ugly and despite the fact of life of lack, injustice and insecurity, Nigeria remains a great work in progress. Nineteen years into democratic rule, the reality of optimism and the beauty of resilience continue to inform Nigerians’ hope of a better life in the years ahead. But this dream can only come to fruition in a truly federal Nigeria.
Over the years, justification for restructuring Nigeria has been well argued by so many people – politicians, intellectuals, businessmen, even traditional rulers – such that, for anyone genuinely interested in making informed judgment, there is no shortage of ideas on the matter.Indeed, a well-articulated resource is the proceedings and recommendations of the 2014 National Conference which cost billions of naira of public fund – not counting the precious man-hours of highly placed Nigerians from all walks of life.
Once again, to all reasonable intents and purposes, there is no reason to quarrel with the need to restructure Nigeria. It is a settled opinion that change is the only permanent feature of life and anyone who resists it will ossify and, in time, die. Re-structuring is therefore a continuous, inevitable process in the lives of people and of nations. Within the context of perennial internal and global changes, Nigeria cannot but continuously self-assess and adjust if it is to survive and thrive as a federation.
As once said, restructuring takes many forms, and is implemented on different fronts – economic, political, administrative, and even social – in either chosen or imposed response to exigencies. Nations restructure their political system as Nigeria did from the parliamentary to the presidential system of government; and administrative restructuring from protectorates to many states. Some people think that the urgent concerns of Nigerians are more of ‘bread and butter’ basic necessities and not an esoteric, hard-to-grasp word bandied about by politicians. Still, others say that the most necessary restructuring is of the mind. This is fine. But it may be argued that it is indeed the continually restructured Nigerian minds who generate the very many ideas to improve the polity, imperfect as these ideas may be. Closure and tunnel vision are dangerous characteristics of man. The opponents of restructuring therefore need to restructure their mentality and it must be said that the problem is more with the elite who benefit from the status quo than with the citizens who suffer its debilitating effects.
For example, the northern part of Nigeria, endowed with vast agricultural land, a huge variety of proven solid mineral reserves, hydro power sources, and large pool of labour, has everything to gain and nothing to lose from a patriotically-motivated comprehensive restructuring of Nigeria.
On this occasion of Democracy Day, it is important to note that the first provision in the manifesto of the change-chanting ruling All Progressives Congress is to ‘initiate action to amend Nigeria’s Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit’. The sixth provision promises to ‘restructure government for a leaner, more efficient and adequately compensated public service.’
Interestingly, the party then set up a committee to act on this. Its report is however still in the cooler.It must be said again: there is no viable alternative to a comprehensive restructuring of this polity if Nigeria would be united, peaceful and prosperous. Irrespective of whatever any one at any level thinks, if Nigeria is to actualise its manifest destiny as the leading Black nation, there is no viable alternative to its comprehensive restructuring along the lines of a proper federation.
And now is the time.