Gazing Into The Future For Nigeria
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Not much of good can be attached to Nigeria; yet, not yet the worst can be related to her. Let me talk about her people. For whom do I write? I think I write on behalf of the millions of Nigerians without either a voice or the means to articulate their grievances.
But I am flummoxed quite often by the so contrary disposition of this constituency, contrary to my generous expectations.
Western education or the lack thereof cannot explain the contradictions I see. A man should know their basic interest at least. Probably, the more sophisticated or, let me say, the latent, may escape public consciousness, and this can be excused. But how am I supposed to excuse betrayal? I should expect Nigerians to realize that we have made the society we live in. Does poverty make men foolish; or does it impart madness? I know that poverty can inject the virus of anger, and we are today witnesses to this. But a mixture of anger and foolishness hardly yields dividend. I believe that the story of Nigeria cannot be true without a chapter on the betrayal of courage.
We have lost (and still do) heroes to the opposing camp. Every hero lost does damage to the confidence the people have in the army of patriots that remain in the trenches. The opposing camp is the camp with supposedly delegated power to wrest for the people the right and means to live the dream of humanity on the planet of divinity. I know that desperation can be very deceptive not only for the individual but also for the people that place their hopes in the individual. When the opposing camp has won more converts than it has lost the future of that nation becomes much bleaker. Desperation for change and national redemption must diminish neither our perception of the price for our labour nor the danger of unequal yoking. When sincere zeal teams up with cunning pretentious resolve a nation loses her heroes; and no nation makes progress that kills off her heroes this way. It always remains true that evil communication corrupts good morals.
I am not against offering public service for public good. But when personal service to a sinking monarch or head of state is disguised in the garb of public service an insidious poison has been concocted. The hero must value his service and dispense it when certain minimal conditions are met, otherwise his service shall be trampled upon and he suffers loss. The next few years under the same leadership in Nigeria shall confer only damage. I see no sincerity in the present Nigerian government; for this the future is not bright. I see only darkness for the next few years unless the Nigerians pick up courage and pile pressure on Jonathan's government to do what is right; and what is right is quite obvious:
1. It is right to implement the recommendations of the KPMG report on the oil sector without the red herring of a Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force (PRSTF). Is it not the pressure uncommonly piled by Nigerians during the recent fuel subsidy removal protests that has brought to limelight the KPMG report that the Jonathan's government had ignored for more than a year? The recommendations in the KPMG report substantially point to neglect of enforcement of existing laws. An insincere government would create all kinds of task forces and committees as lullabies to quieten agitations, and then push important public matters out of public consciousness. Nigerian heroes who have accepted to work in the PRSTF are on their own. There are already existing institutions such as the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which has been given a mere representative role in the PRSTF, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and relevant committees of the National Assembly that can help enforce those recommendations if President Jonathan is sincere. The PRSTF is additional financial burden on the nation and a waste of our resources. Specific examples of infraction such as exaggerated margins of error that have cost Nigeria millions of US dollars have been captured in the report, yet, Jonathan is hiding behind a special task force. The lack of urgency in Jonathan's actions is very suspicious. Was it not the same government that few days ago broached setting up a committee to review the KPMG report? We talk of building institutions; but how can we do so with this culture of task forces and ad hoc committees? By the way, has any good thing come out of such efforts? The lack of will of the government to enforce existing laws is the undoing of Nigeria! Failure of President Jonathan to fully implement the recommendations in the KPMG report will set him apart as a colossal disappointment. But I don't see him doing that without sustained pressure by Nigerians.
2. It is right to convoke a national conference to both define a socio-political structure for Nigeria that is socially just and financially prudent and establish a system of government that is less expensive and more representative of both our culture and ethnic nationalities. I have heard people, particularly at the charade recently organized by the 'National Summit Group' at Sheraton hotel Lagos, disparage reference to 'ethnic nationalities.' First, there is no Nigeria without its ethnic nationalities. I am yet to meet a man who takes umbrage to being called by his father's name, who prefers to be called just a human being without a family. That would be a misnomer, wouldn't it? I am first a Tiv man before I am a Nigerian, and I have no apologies to make for that. And any system in Nigeria that places the Tiv nation in a serious disadvantage is completely unacceptable to me. Secondly, I found it a joke that a conference to discuss Nigeria would be called by the National Summit Group (coordinated by mainly the South-South people such as Pat Utomi, Tony Uranta, and Annkio Briggs) without a formal invitation to the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. I find difficult to place any stamp of seriousness and importance on a so-called national conference without a single Tiv man invited! President Jonathan and the National Assembly must find a way to call Nigerians of all ethnic nationalities to discuss the issues I have raised here and in quite a number of my essays on a sovereign national conference for Nigeria. I see no future for Nigeria without such a conference; and I say this advisedly. Nigeria has no time to waste with charades projected and sponsored by Jonathan's cronies.
The isolation of few people for favours at the expense of the majority has not helped Nigeria. For instance, Niger Delta ex-militants do not constitute the Niger Delta. Jonathan's silence in the face of continuing (if not worsening) destruction of that region by oil operators is indicative of the danger Nigeria faces-absence of leadership. The excuse that the Boko Haram menace is being influenced by 'politicians who wanted power to return to the North' is balderdash! By the way, government is supposed to maintain security irrespective of the source of insecurity. Also, the claim by Jonathan's government and its collaborators that Nigerians that went out to protest fuel subsidy removal were sponsored by 'failed politicians' shows how out of touch with the people Jonathan is.
But Nigerians should learn a lesson; and I have written about this. Credible elections ipso facto do not guarantee good leadership. Nigerians made a choice and must learn to live with its consequences. In Adamawa state, the people 'voted' for PDP few days ago as I write in spite of the debilitating consequences of its rule in the past years. Either the people are dumb and stupid or the election was rigged. And if the election was rigged and yet the people remained quiet, it must either be because of the massive presence of soldiers and the police that kept vigil on the roads in the state or because the people have 'left the matter in God's hands' (a very convenient refuge for the helpless). But a people deserves the leadership it has. The future of Nigeria will be shaped by Nigerians themselves one way or the other.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org). He is also the Chairman of the Middle Belt Alliance (MBA).