BUHARI, SUSTAINABLE PARTNERSHIPS AND THE ATTAINMENT OF JUSTICE AND PEACE IN NIGERIA
Let me have cause to quote again from Francis Fukuyama's book entitled, Political Order and Political Decay. He says: “Nigeria's real institutional deficit lies in the…: lack of strong modern and capable state and absence of rule of law that provides property rights, citizens security, and transparency in transactions. These two deficits are related. Rather than having a modern state that can provide necessary public goods like roads, ports, schools, and public health on an impersonal basis, the Nigerian government main activities is predatory or…prebendal: it is engaged in extraction of rent and their distribution to other members of political elites. This leads to the routine violation of the rule of law…” (Fukuyama, 2014).
The position in the book corroborates what President Obama said in Ghana, that Africa does not need strong personalities, she requires strong institutions.
The above observations are very valid because you need institutions to execute plans and programs, laws and policies that have been formulated for the protection or the betterment of the lives of the citizenry. But to make those institutions sustainable you also need knowledgeable persons, persons with strong political wills, persons with a deep sense of mission, with certain guiding personal principles beyond which they cannot compromise, persons who love their name more than their comfort. In Nigeria, both these things are in serious deficit, except that now we have a President Muhammadu Buhari who is believed to be a man of no easy compromises.
Take the State for instance. In our society the state becomes subordinated to the interests of the official. The official of state could almost say like Napoleon Bonaparte ,l'Etat c'est moi – the State is mine. State governors for instance, to quote Shakespeare in Julius Caesar “doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves.”(Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1 Scene 2 p.6). If Watergate had taken place in Nigeria it wouldn't have been a scandal because it would have been sufficiently covered up. The consequence of official criminality and impunity is that millions of citizens remain without access to basic services and infrastructure, and thereby become impoverished. What greater injustice could this be ?
But in case you think this is just about governors and the President, wait till you hear how rich Nigerians lock up fellow Nigerians for weeks without any form of trial. Powerful individuals unfortunately use the police at will to criminalize civil offences, and the poor citizen is always at the receiving end. So called private sector collude with officials of government to rape the treasury dry. Perhaps culturally we are a people who live comfortably with contradictions, and so as in traditional societies where there are different sets of rules for the King or the Chief with no one daring to question him, we are so deep in this mindset that state agents become law breakers. The ordinary citizen has little or no confidence in the justice system; and instead of being treated as citizen, with dignity, s/he is the stale human-leftover, the societal murky dreg, the discomfiting phlegm. Justice, whether in terms of its commutative aspects or distributive or legal or social, is in such short supply for the Nigerian citizen.
But I think we lament too much. Someone has said that “the key thing is not to make despair convincing but to make hope possible.” (Flintoff, J. How to Change the World, 2002. P.69)
We know the lamentations. We should think more in terms of solutions. And as a way forward, I believe the Post 2015 Agenda is a great opportunity. The vision of the Post 2015 agenda, which is a successor to the MDGs has it that: We envisage a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want. A world,… of safe and nutritious food; of affordable drinking water; of universal access to basic education; of physical, mental and social well-being. A world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity; of justice and equality; of respect for race and ethnicity; and of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential while promoting shared prosperity. A world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all barriers to their empowerment in our societies have been removed. A just, equitable, tolerant and inclusive world. And one in which humanity lives in complete harmony with nature.
This is a vision of justice, a vision of peace. And I ask myself, does Buhari know this ? Does Tinubu, Saraki, Dogara, the governors, the Local Government Chairpersons, the councilors; Do they know ? Are they aware of this vision, with all its goals and targets and the evolving indicators ? It's one thing to send a government representative who goes and takes part in the negotiations, but how is the briefing afterwards ? Would this framework be mainstreamed, along with the African Agenda? Do our representatives just go and sign these frameworks and come back, and government just continues doing business the way it has known how to do, without a conscious effort to align governance with these frameworks ? There is the ambition of riding the world of poverty by 2030.
If governments at all levels buy into this world agenda, then they will know that governance requires solid partnerships to bring a vision about , for a vision is a joint commitment.
I therefore strongly suggest the establishment of partnerships with civil society groups especially faith based organisations at all levels of government. Pope Paul Vl said the new name for peace is development. So what I am saying in effect is that government should partner with CSOs for development. In 2014 UNDP published Guidelines on working with Faith-based institutions and their leaders. Let me quote from that document: “Working with FBOs and Religious Leaders is especially crucial in areas where governance structures are weak and fail to ensure human rights and administer basic services, including in relation to protection, justice and education.”(UNDP Guidelines on Engaging with Faith-based Organizations and Religious Leaders, 2014).
The Nigerian government needs to realize that it can't do everything, and sometimes have to support those who can, with funds. In health, education, livelihoods, peace-building, FBOs could do more with funding from the State. Government should cooperate to establish a legal framework that would make state funding for non- state actors legitimate. The example of Peter Obi comes to mind in Anambra State where government successfully funded mission schools. The argument could be that government is broke. Then perhaps we appeal to the Nigerian people to fund CSOs including FBOs through a special fund that could be generated through an increment in the VAT rate. Nigeria has one of the lowest VAT rates in the world, and instead of any increment going back to government, let it be set aside for funding the partnership with non-state actors. I believe Nigerians can make this sacrifice for the acceleration of development in our land through the active partnership of non-state actors.
If we expect the change to be driven by government and outside factors without putting ourselves in the middle of it, we would end up being quite disappointed. As citizens we too must be convinced of the Post 2015 agenda for People, Planet and Prosperity, or People, Planet and Dignity, as Caritas prefers it. The leadership for this change lies on us. Ghandhi said 'Be the change you want to see.' Let me add this quote from the ambitiously titled book by John-Paul Flintoff quoted earlier How to Change the World: “Charismatic leadership has not freed us and it never will, because freedom is, by definition, people realizing that they are their own leaders.”(Flintoff J, 2012,p.92). If we need change, let us hope on ourselves.
Written by Fr. Evaristus Bassey, a Catholic Priest.