With peremptory magistracy and awesome gallantry, our founding fathers fought with dogged obduracy for the political independence of our glorious country, Nigeria, They clamoured with no-holds-barred, like the Roman hero Horatius, who fought with Spartan intrepidity defending Rome from the Etruscan invaders. Horatius asked like our founding fathers; “And how can a man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods”?
Our founding fathers invested their dreams on Nigeria, but whither goeth Nigeria today? After 54 years of political independence, Nigeria is still silhouetted in the sordid saga and tapestry of progressivistic labyrinth. We are still rumbling in the cabbage of unthinkable corruption, arrant poverty, HIV –Aids, Malaria scourge and arrested development. We are submerged in the cocoon of human rights violations, including politically motivated assassinations, extra- judicial killings and excessive use of force. The arrest and detention of people for political reasons, restriction on freedom of the press, speech and assembly, prolonged pre-trial detention and aiding and abetting of electoral malpractices still constitute some dark characteristics of our Nation. We are still sunken in blatant illegalities, tragic criminalities, graft and wallowing in unmitigated sleaze.
At 55 years of independence, Nigeria still remains shipwrecked in the island of gloom and doom, leadership doppelganger, political gridlocks, socio-economic cliffhangers, tribal jingoism and utter planlessness. We have no functional hospitals, no roads, no affordable houses, no jobs and no food security, no light, no effective transport system, no water, no affordable education and no road map and viable blue print for strategic repositioning of our country, Nigeria. The statesman, Alfred Rewane captures the scenario thus ‘yesterday, we yearned for a better tomorrow. Today, we mourn the loss of a better yesterday. How sad”? Whither goeth Nigeria at 55 years of political independence?
The politicians and their military cohorts have completely bastardised our psyche. We are crestfallen and despondent. They have made and continue to make half-hearted efforts aimed at salvaging our prostrate fatherland from the abyss of consummate despair. We have seen endless constitutional reforms, adjustments of economic policies based on the Breton institution’s conditionalities like FEM, SFEM, Economic Liberalisation, Deregulation of the Petroleum Downstream Sector, Operation Feed the Nation, OFN, Green Revolution, school to land project, privatisation, liquidity Mop-up, cash squeeze, devaluation, Universal Basic Education scheme, Civil war, MAMSER, KAI, war against indiscipline, subsidy removal, industrial revolution etc. These weird economic, socio-political policies successfully bedraggled and befuddled our Nation. It asphyxiated our people and manacled them in the epicenter of parenthetical placidity. After 54years of independence, Nigeria is still gallivanting and rigmaroling on an undulating political topography interjected with complex volcanic rocks. We are steeple chasing on a horrendously deadly political land mines and canons that will explode to consume our country, Nigeria.
We are tired of perambulating in the concentric circles of backwardness, buck-passing and trading of blames. What is the way forward? Hence, a Chartered Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Chief LEA AIMIUWU once said, “first we blamed the colonial masters, next, military blamed military. Then politicians blamed military. Now, party blames party, Legislature blames Executive, Executive blames Legislature, Tribe blames tribe, zone blames zone, private sector blames public sector, public sector blames private sector, followers blame leaders, leaders blames followers”.
Who blames self? Now we turn round and say “Nigeria has failed us’ But who makes up Nigeria? Nigeria has not failed, we have failed ourselves! Working together, mission driven, with shared passion and vision-focus NIGERIA SHALL RISE AGAIN. Things work only if we make them work! They work only as we make them work. So LETS WORK THE WORK!!” This could be a peripheral and simplistic overview of Nigeria’s problems, but it bears a ring of the horizontal and vertical integration which Nigeria needs to move forward as a nation.
It is sacrosanct truism that at 55 years of independence, Nigeria needs implosive surgeonisation of moral rearmament, ethical revolution, attitudinal re-orientation, leadership altruism, political re-evaluation, policy screening, patriotism and change of psyche with everything and anything that has to do with Nigeria and Nigerians to enable our country make palpable progress. We must don the toga of true democracy, rule of law, dialogue and constitutionality. We must realise as a nation that our rancid preoccupation with monocausality merely hardens our positions, fossilizes debate and limits the boundaries of intellectual discourse. Our search for the panacea to our ever illusive EL Dorado will be brought to near fruition, if we adopt a more responsible and constructive focus on:
(a) Leadership by example: It is a quintessential fact that good leadership has been the bane of the Nigerian nation right from 1960 till date. We need leaders that can carry the vast majority of Nigerians along through policies that will alleviate the agonies and travails of the people. Nigeria is a nation formed as a result of the agglomeration of different and myriad groups of heterogeneous peoples and the geo-political setting is complex. We need leaders who understand the political calculus inherent in the system. Leaders that can build on this melting-pot foundation by self- abnegation and patriotism.
A leader that understands that Nigeria is a microcosm in a global macrocosm and that Nigeria must hold and take an enviable seat in the comity of nations. A leader that calls the totality of Nigeria his or her main constituency. A detribalised and cosmopolitanised leader. A leader who understands that leadership is all about people’s welfare through committed and honest leadership. The essayist ALENG .G. WHITE said “ the greatest need of the world today is the want of men, men who will not be bought or sold, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men who in their innermost souls are true and honest, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who stand for the right though the heavens fall”. We need such men as leaders in a new Nigeria.
ECONOMY: A good, progressive and functional economy constitute the matrix on which the growth and development of any nation can take place. Nigeria has been quite amorphous in its economic
principles and logistics, although we have been called one the fastest growing economies in the world and the highest in Africa. But the Babangida regime initiated the Breton Institution minored economy and ever since then, the economic conditionalities demanded by them has completely rubbished the Nigerian economy. It has precipitated horrible sufferings on Nigerians. This is further compounded by Obasanjo’s religious devotion to the conditionalities and Okonjo Iweala’s economic contretemps. The Millennium Development Goals include targets to improve health, water and sanitation, education, gender equality, environment, roll back the tentacles of HIV-Aids and ensure free primary education for all by the year 2015.
It is now clear that the G8 countries and the Breton Institutions are in a grand ploy to frustrate the development of Africa. It is time to call ourselves to order in Nigeria and start orchestrating new sound economic strategies and principles that are centrifugal and centripetal in their orientation. The current economic policies of Brazil, Russia, India and China must be studied. They are the fastest growing economies in our world today. Economic husbandry and effective harnessing of resources is about putting food on the peoples table, education, health care delivery, employment, transportation, housing and electricity. All our leaderships have not been able to provide at 55 years of independence. How can Nigeria borrow $13.5billion paid $42 billion and we still owe $30billion?
The Coalition of NGO’s under the auspices of Jubilee Campaign got an approval from the IMF and World Bank to live up to the G8 Gleen eagles agreement by 50% debt reduction and forgiveness to 18 poorest countries in the world, with 14 countries coming out of Africa.
Since Nigeria is a mono-cultural economy, the time has come for the oil sector to be properly overhauled and purged of all its hindrances and cleavages like corruption, mismanagement, oil theft and non-accountability. Nigerians are tired of buying fuel at astronomically high prices caused by the inability of the Nigerian leadership to maintain existing refineries and its refusal to build new ones. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and its subsidiaries of Kaduna Refinery, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, Integrated Data Services Limited, IDSL, Warri Refinery and Petrochemicals Company Limited, WDPC, Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited, PHRC, and Nigeria Gas Company Limited, NGC, must be made to fine-tune logistics for the development of the petrochemical sector and for its economic impact to be felt by Nigerians, especially in the Niger Delta.
The oil multinationals must be prevailed upon to impact positively on the lives of the communities in which they operate. The recurrent youth restiveness and pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta could be checked if they carry their various communities along. The issue of 50% derivation formula as recommended by the South-South (Niger Delta) delegates to the Nigeria National Reform Conference and the recent National Confab should be implemented to the letter immediately by adopting a middle of the road approach. Since the discovery of oil in Olobiri, Bayelsa State in 1956 and its subsequent commercialisation in 1958 ,the Niger Delta has not felt the impact of the oil in their land. This will continue to constitute a destabilising factor in Nigeria. We appeal to the leadership to approve an increase on derivation formula without further delay. At 55 years of Nigeria’s independence, the Niger delta still remains a concrete jungle. The Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, EITI, which is an expenditure guidance initiative, must be encouraged. The new members of the Board of Directors of the various oil corporations must be honest, efficient and transparent.
In the light of the new millennium, Nigeria must continue to make strides in economic development by adopting new global strategies. The importance of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD, NEEDS, SEEDS and such-like bodies must be tapped for macro-economic impact. An economic “Think tank” must be set up to look into ways and means of diversifying the Nigerian economy and looking at the logistics of re-launching a new agricultural revolution in Nigeria. It is a
shame that Nigeria still remains one of the largest importers of food in the world, whilst China with its over 1.5 billion people feeds itself. A new Operation Feed the Nation, OFN, and a new school to farm project must re-launched. It is a shame that 2/3 of 150 million Nigerians still live on $1 dollar a day. A leadership that cannot feed the people and a nation that cannot feed itself are doomed to perdition. Providing food for the teeming masses should be the cardinal and fundamental concern and priority of government at all levels. The importation of farmers from Zimbabwe is not the answer.
In a recently released United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, Human Development Index sustained with scientific development indices such as employment level, quality housing, school enrolment and quality education, food, portable water supply, good roads, health care services used as barometric gauge to place countries in hierarchical order of development category, while relatively poor African countries like Ghana, Uganda. Zimbabwe, Gabon, Liberia and Niger were within the Medium Human Development category better than Nigeria. This is because there is collective amnesia, corruption and leadership inertia.
EDUCATION: Nigeria’s educational system is chaotically schismatic and in a state of miasmatic contretemps. It has tended to apotheosize certificate acquisition without making the certificate holder functionally useful to him or herself and society. In the past, our colonial masters prepared a system that could turn out clerks to help implement their colonial administrative policies. Their system is now anachronistic. The rhythm of development in 21st century now entails scientific and technological and vocational skill driven educational system. We need an educational system that makes a man use his head and his hands to help himself and society.
The proliferation of universities and other tertiary institutions is a welcome development, but all educational regulatory bodies and directorates like Nigeria Universities Commission, NUC, must ensure that high standards are maintained. The Nigerian government must come in to launch an educational Revolution in keeping and consistent with the Millennium Development Goals which is aimed at reducing illiteracy by 2015. In this regard, the Nigerian government should make education free and compulsory at all levels. This is to enable Nigeria, especially Northern Nigeria, to catch up with educational trends and development in the world. We need a horizontal and vertical integration of resources to develop education not only from grassroots levels but from root hair base to treetop heights. The free food for primary school programme is a wasted programme because of inherent, prevalent, contemporary and logical problems. The Almajiri free education must be commended.
The government should make education free at all levels in Nigeria.
There is now, more than ever before, an overwhelming need to rewrite our primary, secondary and university syllabuses and course content to reflect modern realities. There must be uniformity of school curricula all over Nigeria. This is to enable us do exact measurement of scholastic attainments and standards. Education must be structurally re-oriented to be not only a tool for technological development, but also as a weapon for moral rearmament and mass mobilisation. A situation where so-called educated people remain moral reprobates, cultic demons, criminals and highly unpatriotic citizens remains one of the hydra-headed monsters confronting Nigeria, today. We need education for service to our fatherland, in this regard we suggest the scraping of the National Youth Service Corp, NYSC, scheme and in its place we suggest that there should be a compulsory Military Corp Scheme, of training for every Nigerian from secondary school level to university level. This will enable us tailor our developmental goals within the right ambit.
CORRUPTION: The octopoidal tentacles of corruption must be exterminated hook, line and sinker for Nigeria to make any meaningful progress. It has attained the ascendancy of our culture, tradition and soap opera in Nigeria- an odiferous chameleonic feaces into which we have stepped. All strategies mapped out and contraptions put in place by successive regimes and governments have turned out to be mere placeboes. We have seen the War Against Indiscipline, WAI, the War Against Corruption WAC, and now contraptions like Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, FECC, and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC.
So far, the EFCC and ICPC are on track, but it is clear that they cannot go far enough because the enabling legislation are not completely in place and indeed, a terrible problem requires a drastic solution. From all indications, it is obvious that the EFCC is still under the grip of the president and its selective justice system portrays it as an instrument for political witch-hunting and vengeance. Until the EFCC and ICPC rededicate themselves to high standard of diligence, objectivity, integrity and fairness, it will go the way of other agencies that were entrusted with the onerous task of eradicating corruption in our country.
The syndicate of corrupt Nigerians in the top echelon of government and the private sector who want to maintain the status quo will continue to be corrupt because nothing can happen to them in a country where the president, the police and the judiciary are totally corrupt. A corrupt country, like a dull student, cannot attain the highest heights of excellence, because its value standards are defective and full of normative gaps. Every attempt at wiping away corruption from our system has failed, because they are all devious attempts laced with pusillanimous tergiversation and insincerity. There are so many sacred cows and untouchables in Nigeria. Hence, injustice and oppression will continue to prevail and they have completely rubbished the sacrosanct tenets of democracy. The essayist Herbert Spencer posits that “Every unpunished delinquency has a family of delinquencies”. This is corroborated by Pubilius Syrus, he said “Qui Culpae Ignoscit Uni, suadetpluribius(Pardon one offence and you encourage the commission of many). What is the way forward? The President should stand up against corruption in Nigeria. It is in the light of this harrowing anguish which corruption has been used to dehumanise Nigerians that one makes bold to suggest that proven cases of corruption should be faced with the “DEATH PENALTY.” Any public officer that has not declared his assets should face the wrath of the law immediately and should be banned from holding public office for 20 years. It is a hideous pity that after 54 years of independence, Nigeria cannot boost of a corruption-free society and integrity in service. The cases of DipreyeAlamiesegha, Dariye Joshua, Tafa Balogun, Lawan, Oduah, 93.3 million dollars to south Africa etc. must be thoroughly investigated and findings made public. The immunity clause must be deleted from our constitution if we must fight corruption to a stand still. Government will be reducing the urge for Nigerians to be corrupt if it provides social amenities for the poverty stricken masses, at least at their level.
The United Nation sponsored first international treaty against governmental corruption, a major obstacle to development in poor countries, received the 30th ratification it needs to go into effect on the 11th September, 2005. The United Nation convention against corruption provides for international co-operation in the return of assets illicitly acquired by corrupt officials, as well as preventive measures to detect the plundering of national wealth. One hopes that the cost that corruption takes on development will now be confronted by the robust articles on corruption to some extent, since a good amount of such crime sector involves the bribing of officials. Through provisions on banking transparency and against money laundering, it will also help to fight organised crime. The menace of corruption at all levels in the Nigerian society must be fought to a stand still. It is a war we must win by all means.
RELIGION: Religion is a belief in the worship of some powers greater than mortal. It is like a candle inside a multi-coloured lantern, everyone looks through a particular colour, but the candle is always there. To this extent, the Zeitgeist of religion implies it is supposed to be an individual thing and the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria chapter iv section 38 subsection (1) under Fundamental Rights provides that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,
including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone, or in community with others, and in public or private) to manifest and propagate his religion or beliefs in worship, teaching, practice and observance”.
Furthermore, the constitution states under General Provision, Part II, Section 10 that “the government of the federation or a state shall not adopt any religion as state religion”. The religious antics of our leadership points to the contrary. Religion has become politicised by the government. It is now a tool for vote magnetisation. This is further compounded by the fundamental antecedents of some Moslem and Christian pastors and leaders. This is not good for a united, peaceful and cohesive nation of our dream. The wanton proliferation of churches and monetisation of the scriptures should begin to give our leadership and the Nigerian government some concern. The noise pollution for our towns and cities by chants from mosques and miracle peddling churches is attaining an unthinkable proportion. They have become banks and trading places.
We therefore, suggest that government and politicians should hands off religion and should stop using religion as a political tool. All fundamentals and extremists religions should be checked. The churches and mosque should pay taxes to the local Government Councils in which they operate. They should pay levies for miracle crusade shows. The subscription and sponsorship of pilgrims and pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem should stop forthwith as Nigeria is a secular state. The government must put a code of operation as the current carte blanc is being misconstrued as unrestricted freedom to preach, indoctrinate and disrespect our national ethos and propagate self-serving lies. Some even refuse to sing the national anthem. The Boko Haram tragedy, menace and insurgency is a great lesson to our leadership. The innocent Chibok girls must be brought home.
Hence, the poet Percy Shelly clamoured “Earth groans beneath religion’s iron –age and priest dare babble of a god of peace even whilst their hands are red with guiltless blood”. This is buttressed by Blaise Pascal, he said “men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”. We call for a more pragmatic and palpable moral reflection and not the doctrine of money! Money!! Money!!! This is why corruption is being dangerously accentuated. A religious system that does not check the moral depravity and financial recklessness of its membership and the love of filthy lucre by its pastors is not fit to exist in the new Nigeria we are trying to build. The religious organisations and system in Nigeria must be surgeonised for people and nation building even after 54 years of independence.
Our Guest writer, Gbinije is of Mandate Against Poverty, MAP, Warri