Nigeria Matters

For Nigeria; What Have You to Contribute?

If someone were to ask us what the most crippling problem of Nigeria is, we will not have a moment’s hesitation in deciding that it is infidelity and irresponsibility to the affairs of the Nigeria nation. And the second problem (which partly stems from the first inasmuch as most other problems do) is corruption. We hope many among the serious observers of national affairs will concur on these views. In our order of ranking problems there is a third problem which we think should also receive high priority but this has not been sufficiently highlighted in public debate. A structural problem of ours which comes only next to runaway population and the omni-pervasive corruption is our unitary state structure. An overpopulated country is further overburdened by its unitary form.

People who sacrificed themselves for Nigeria on the altar of progress, development and democracy deserve national honour. If we say, we are the party that won independence in 1960. Our national icon was established before the present politic gambit itself, so, no, there can be no doubt… why, politics is part and parcel of the Nigeria people.

Nowadays the government of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is on track now to right some of the wrongs, the most glaring ones. Worryingly still, his government seems to have not given room to slumber to grasp the gravity of the economic stabilization.

To make the task easier the politicians, on their part, should undertake house cleaning of the Nigeria’s own. If this is done in right earnest there will be no need to keep the political system in abeyance for long. Political parties must institute a self-correcting system to make democracy work, not only in form but in substance as well. The period between now and the next election should be seen as the interval when audit is carried out and the balance sheet of politics is completed.

But soon enough, this glorious party politics narrative began to suffer from hiccups. While the government and the commission appear to be drifting further away from elections, the people have borne the brunt of the successive multiple governance failures. Investment – domestic and foreign – has nosedived, trade and commerce stalled, employment opportunities shrunk, inflation overshot all previous records while the prices of essential commodities have spiraled out of the reach of the majority. In such circumstances, it is only natural that there would be calls for an end to the military-controlled regime and joint efforts by secular political parties and professional groups to restore governance by elected representatives.

However, at this point, a reminder for the politicians is in order. The elected governments between 1999 and 2007 cannot be said to have lived up to the popular expectations. Many politicians in Nigeria misused public funds and encroached upon public property, while their leaders did not keep their pre-election pledges and ignored the political, economic and cultural aspirations of the people. What’s more, they never bothered to initiate genuinely democratic practices within their own parties. While lack of financial transparency and accountability, politicization of the bureaucracy, commercialization and criminalization of politics marked their tenures at the helm, it is only expected that people would respond to the call for united efforts towards restoration of governance by elected representatives with a touch of skepticism. To dispel such skepticism and restore people’s faith in them, the politicians have to spell out how they plan to democratize themselves and their parties. It is true that, if urged by the politicians now, the people would rally behind them to bring the country back on the path to democracy.

However, that would be out of desperation, as their misery continues to deepen under this regime. Therefore, it would be immoral on part of the politicians if they were to make hollow promises for change for the better only to play on the people’s desperation.

Of course, it is no use blaming the Nigerian public alone for what leadership fronts, particularly those belonging to ruling political parties, do. It is systemic, practiced by all public fronts except those largely belonging to the left tradition. Here is a list of these ‘excesses,’ diligently compiled and published in a recent “nigeria4betterrule” feature. Its writer has added, the list is far from complete:

Picking a fight for no reason but to display superior physical/armed prowess
Asserting control by whatever means, including killing one’s opponent
Taking protection money from contractors
Forcibly evicting tender competitors .
Illegal VOIP connection
Forcibly stripping and photographing a girlfriend
Drug dealing
Setting up adulterated pharmaceutical company
Manufacturing forged documents (licences, passports)
Using the names of leaders, even dead ones, for extortion
Holding fierarms high, shooting blank rounds during processions and rallies
Kidnapping neighbour’s family member(s)
Breaking out convicts from police custody
Extorting money from seller of land
Extorting money from buyer of land
Taking protection money from contractors
Beating up public works and water development engineer
Assaulting a UNO, threatening him with death
Grabbing land allocated for landless
Evicting a martyred goodrule advocate’s wife from her house
Cutting off a ear for insufficient applause to leader’s speech
Blockading roads for extortion
Raping and extorting money from sex-worker
Illegally renting out government billboard space
Grabbing river banks
Commandeering government land for political party
Leaning on police to file cases
Leaning on police to withdraw cases
Threatening teacher with gun to pass exams
Counterfeiting money
Severing tendons of arms and legs, plucking out eyeballs
Beating up a good student for attending exams
Blackmarketing.
Extorting money from labour market
Grabbing free public resources at throwaway price

Nigeria is not a culturally monolithic country. Even if it were one, there is no pride in it. Every modern polity today upholds multiculturalism. Even a country like France, so proud of its culture, does admit cultural diversity in its political ethos. If we had a bicameral legislature it would be possible to give special representation and empower the ethnic minorities and make them feel reassured and confident. That would also strengthen solidarity of the country. And above all, it would have a positive impact on governance.

Absence of good governance in Nigeria has held back from the people benefits which could have come from sound, pro-people policies. A policy which is good in theory yields little that is positive due to absence of good governance. Unfortunately, governance is not even talked about much in recent years. Our government is more interested in political reforms than improvement of governance. Of course, as anti-people authority its inadequacies were being exposed in almost everything it handled, but the issue of governance does not seem to have interested them in the first place.

Thus governance, in the post-military period, is a neglected issue although it had been a live topic of discussion in various media and fora before 1/11. It is possible for an autocratic or unelected government to give good administration but good governance is a more interactive concept at people’s level. In Nigeria Governance has in recent years acquired a broader connotation. (The term itself is new in political discourse). Governance is not only a phenomenon of the three branches of the state exercising their functions. As wider space is created for non-government participation, local government and civil society and special groups, a b

roader conception of governance has emerged. Governance has been defined as ‘a set of values, policies and institutions by which a society manages economic, political and social processes at all levels through interaction among government, civil society and private sector.’ A sound political system is, needless to say, a precondition of good governance. This entails legislative empowerment of all regions and sections, distributive justice and efforts towards equality. The three drawbacks listed above are responsible for the failure to improve governance.

We cannot hazard any suggestion as to how many more legislatures should be there and their locations. Obviously, there will be competing demands. Once it is accepted that a federal structure can improve governance and the promote development and equality, the other questions and disputes can then be taken up. If you ignore the Nigeria integrity, you ignore the nation’s historic struggles for democracy; you ignore the liberation struggle itself. Both the ruling party and all Nigerian citizens, we are devoted to the Nigeria nation. We are indistinguishable from the Nigeria entity. [We are the nation].

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