Open Letter To Professor Kingsley Moghalu
Dear Professor Moghalu,
I felt constrained to write you this open letter after observing that you have at last decided to offer your vast knowledge and experience in the United Nations and in the Central Bank of Nigeria to the service of the country. Many Nigerians like me believe in your capability to lead Nigeria to the Promised Land of true democratic dispensation.
I have heard so many Nigerians recite the famous verses of Dr Martin Luther King, Jnr: “I have a dream...” I am sure we are no more talking about dreams. We have been long enough in the classroom after our dreams. We have done proper paperwork. We have worked hard and planned well. We no longer need to dream about Nigeria and how to come to terms with her challenges. We just have to act. And the time is now.
It is encouraging that you already feel the pulse of the ordinary Nigerian families who are daily weighed down by excruciating poverty in the midst of the stinking wealth of a few privileged families. I am almost sure that during your stint as deputy governor of the Central Bank and for the period you worked in the United Nations, you also got to know how slippery Nigerian political terrain could be.
An example is an incident that allegedly happened after Iraq was invaded by President George Bush of America and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain in 2003. As a result of that invasion, Nigeria had a financial windfall in its oil sector because Iraq was no longer producing oil due to its internal crises. This excess money accruing to Nigeria was allegedly shared up by the top officers of the oil industry. One top officer was allegedly offered $US 2 million as his share. He rejected the offer. He said he did not see how he could defraud his own country. That night, assailants were sent to his house and they murdered him. He wasn’t going to be the one to reveal the secrets of the top officers. They killed him in order to silence him. That was the cost of being a dedicated Nigerian!
There is an Igbo proverb which says: “ala adigh mma nwere ndi ji ya araga piom!” This literarily means that there are people who benefit when they deliberately make the land evil.
Were you to be elected as the next President of Nigeria, come 2019, you will inherit many problems. Make no mistakes about that.
The first shock you might have is to observe that Nigerians are always voting for the wrong people. Either they are being intimidated by the officers of the party endorsed by their local leaderships, such as the royal fathers, church leaders or elders of the land or they vote for the party that is ready to throw money at them for whatever it is worth.
Nigerian voters are yet to appreciate the fact that public office holders are servants of the people. The people are the masters. They are yet to appreciate that it is the master who pays the servant. And the moment the servant begins to pay the master (to vote him into public office) the positions are reversed. The master becomes the servant and the servant becomes the master. And when greed comes in, people who made the initial mistake begin to complain. Why would they complain when they mortgaged their future and that of their children for a pot of porridge?
The irony of Nigeria’s predicament is that it is not so difficult to turn around the fortunes of the country for better. But the so-called leaders have refused to do so because of their greed. The rich ruling families in the north are the best example of this class of Nigerians. This clique of well placed Nigerians that is used to amassing untold wealth from the oil wells in the South include Alhaji Mai Daribe, Gen Theophilus Danjuma, Col. Sani Bello, Alhaji Mohammed Ludimi, Prince Nasiru Ado Bayero, Alhaji Ibrahim Bunu among several others. In the South, they have such counterparts as Alhaji W.I. Folawiyo, Peter Odili, Emeka Offor, Mike Adenuga, Alfred James and Arthur Eze among others. This group of people constitute a major constraint on any plan to move Nigeria in the direction of a welfare state.
The insistence of Nigerian leaders on operating two sets of judicial systems side-by-side is another problem that tends to make the attainment of true democracy difficult for the country. For example, the law under Sharia can allow for a man’s hand to be amputated for a crime as simple as the hunger-driven theft of a tuber of yam but a governor who carts away millions of dollars of tax payers’ money into foreign bank accounts for his personal use has no case to answer from the people. And a woman who is alleged to have committed adultery is sentenced to death by stoning, but the man who committed the adultery with her has no case to answer. This and similar disparities in the dispensation of justice in the land is a major issue to consider. How can we talk of democracy in a country that operates two divergent judicial systems?
There are agitations all over the country – in the South East, in the Deep South and even in the North. These problems have been there since the start of the Fourth Republic. After Chief Obasanjo ruled for 8 years, he couldn’t solve them. He found a way to install President Jonathan, hoping that he would have the magic wand that would placate the Deep Southerners and bring peace to the troubled Delta Region. But the magic wand didn’t happen. Rather, violence escalated and 12 northern states eventually embraced the Sharia law fully, in a robust attempt to come to terms with what they saw as loss of authority following the election of a Delta man as President.
General Buhari has presided over the country for more than half his tenure. Nothing tangible has happened since his party came into control. The change the APC promised the voters is happening, but negatively. Many Nigerians had high hopes that, given President Buhari’s track records in the past, he could put a halt to the incessant killings in parts of the country by Boko Haram. But that has not happened and is not likely to happen. Boko Haram has even gone international, becoming a pest to Cameroon, Chad and other neighbouring countries. Nigerians are disappointed, and many wish they had not voted for change. They now realise that the devil you know could be better than the angel you don’t know, after all.
Part of the problem remains the inability of subsequent governments to generate funds internally. Every state actor seems to believe that Abuja is the answer to the problem and with plates in hand they continue to rely on allocation from Abuja to implement their state budgets. Agriculture which was once the mainstay of the national economy is relegated to the background. Many solid minerals which would have gone to buttress the economy of many states lie untapped. These could have secured employment for the teeming population of school leavers perpetually in search of work. But the government has refused to look that way.
The need for a 24/7 electric and safe water supply to all the cities, towns and villages in the country cannot be over-emphasised here. With steady electricity supply, small and medium size businesses will bounce back and proffer employment to many of our youth now roaming the streets daily in search of jobs that don’t seem to be available anywhere.
The civil service is another problem that will need to be tackled. The long military interregnum into the evolution of democracy in Nigeria seems to have fortified the civil service with a legitimacy that makes it increasingly strong in the understanding that governments will come and go but the civil service remains to work with the government in power. And so they continue to educate the political class on how to acquire as much wealth as comes their way while in office. They tutor the politicians that political offices have expiry dates and opportunities do not last forever. In such a way they contribute in no small measure in corrupting the system. So, I think that what should really concern your leadership initially should be how to overhaul a system that produces bad or unscrupulous leaders.
The Nigerian system needs a total overhaul. A system where traffic lights are never obeyed; a system that exposes its teenage children to grave dangers by allowing them to hawk; a system that has criminally refused to fight bribery and corruption the right way by enacting what could be seen as one of the most important laws to penalise employers who fail to pay their workers as at and when due, must be bad enough. And if we all agree on that, how then do we get about overhauling the system?
All this calls for a restructuring of the nation in its current state. But that may not be easy, given the position of those families which have continued to believe that the economy of the country belongs entirely to them and every other Nigerian must eat from the crumbs that fall off the masters’ tables. How can they be brought to acknowledge that in a democratic dispensation, all Nigerians are born equal and endowed with equal opportunities? This will be a major task.
Therefore, in tackling the problem with Nigeria, my dear Professor Moghalu, you will have to make use of your connections in the international community from Day 1. They must be available to monitor every step of your policies and how they are being implemented. In that regard, I have coined a simple acronym which might help Nigerians attain the status of a true democracy if it is applied in the art of governance.
That acronym is NAFAP – meaning Nigerian Anthem, Flag and Passport. The Nigerian anthem sets the pace for the government’s focus. It speaks about compatriots – fellow citizens or nationals of a country obeying the call of their country, Nigeria. And what is that call? It is to serve the fatherland with love and strength and faith. Nigerians are expected to serve their fatherland by not being discriminatory, but by loving one another, no matter in what part of the country they were born. A Nigerian is a Nigerian. That is the faith. That is the understanding.
The anthem then talks about the labours of the heroic founding fathers of the country. Their vision was to build a nation that is free, peaceful and united. But this has not been so, unfortunately. Where there should be freedom, peace and unity we now have armed agitations, youth unrest and a country that is divided along ethnic and religious lines.
The anthem calls on God to lead the country’s leaders right. But many of the ‘leaders’ have neglected the fear of God, the beginning of wisdom. Material wealth has turned to become their god and their watch word. Peace and justice which the anthem refers to are the components that make for a stable nation. But they are glaringly lacking in today’s Nigeria. The question here is: can the wordings of this national anthem be made to drive the aspirations and mindset of most Nigerians? I think the answer is yes.
On another level, the Nigerian passport defines who is a Nigerian and who is not. In applying this, the question of ethnicism can be judiciously taken care of and no Nigerian would have a right to call another a foreigner in his own country simply because he was not born in that particular part of the country. The Nigerian passport does not recognise ethnicism and so the spirit of that document might be what we need to subdue tribal leadership, the evil that makes it impossible for Nigeria to have a true national spirit.
I have taken the liberty to study types of marriages that exist today – not because I was thinking about Nigeria when I studied them – but because I was hungry for the knowledge which I felt was necessary to tackle the challenges I was personally experiencing at the time. And I found out that arranged marriages were about the most stable, because siblings are always in them. It isn’t like one individual marrying another. It is one entire family marrying another. Such marriages last longer and are the most unlikely to call for a divorce because siblings are involved.
So, I discovered that the opinion many Nigerians hold that Britain dumped a group of ethnic odd bed-fellows together and called them a country, purely for its own economic and political benefit, is a faulty assumption. I believe that the various ethnic groups that make up what we know today as Nigeria fall into the category we can call “arranged marriages”. It was not that the Hausa or the Igbo or the Yoruba as major ethnic groups saw themselves, liked themselves and decided to “marry” themselves into one country. Their “marriage” was arranged by their colonial master, Britain.
It is also important to always remember that Nigeria’s colonial master, Britain was itself once a colony of Rome. Even as we speak, Britain has never found it necessary to totally shrug off all the vestiges of its colonial past. That is why the mottos of most of its important institutions like its colleges and universities are still in Latin. For example: The University of Aberdeen has as its motto “Initium sapientiae timor domini” which means “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.” Birkbeck University of London’s motto is “In nocte consilium” meaning “In night is counsel”. The University of Birmingham’s motto is “Per Ardua Ad Alta” which means “Through efforts to higher things”. Bournemouth University’s motto is “Discere mutani est” which means “To learn to change”. University of Buckingham’s motto is “Alis volaris propiis” meaning “Flying on our own wings”. The University of Kent’s motto is “Cui servire regnare est” meaning “Whom to serve is to reign”. Imperial College, London has its motto as “Scientia imperii decus et tutamen” which means “Knowledge is the adornment and safeguard of the Empire.” Kings College, London has its motto as “Sancte et sapienter” meaning “With holiness and with wisdom”. Queen Mary University of London’s motto is “Coniunctis viribus” meaning “With United Power” and London School of Economics and Political Science has its motto as “Rerum cognoscere causas” meaning “To understand the causes of things”. Even the Royal Stool of England has its motto as “Dieu et mon droit” meaning “God and my right”.
What I am saying in effect is that while many Nigerians hold what can now be seen as an erroneous view that Britain lumped together the various “incompatible” ethnicities that make up modern Nigeria for its own economic benefit, they can still take the liberty today to compare modern London with its former colonial master, Rome. When they do that, they will be left in no doubt that given good and focused leadership, Nigeria stands a fair chance of comparing favourably with Britain tomorrow, just as Britain compares with Italy today. The vestiges of colonial experience are never so easy to shrug off and instead, countries with wise leaders capitalise on the experience.
In the case of Nigeria, there are just practical things to do to set the country on the right path to true democracy.
- Make the Nigerian passport and the Nigerian national anthem the symbol of One Nigeria because they don’t recognise ethnicity. They don’t know who is from Edo, Fulani, Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba.
- Make the three major languages compulsory in all primary schools. In two generations the ethnic gap would have been closed as every Nigerian child would understand every other Nigerian.
- Pass laws to pay all categories of workers as at and when due – as it is done in developed countries. Nigeria has got the money. What it seems to lack is the political will to fight corruption the right way.
- Set up employment tribunals in every local government area of the country to follow up defaulters and penalise them according to law.
- Challenge party politics and allow those who aspire to public offices to test their popularity as independent contestants. For so long after independence, incompetent moneybags have been shielded by political parties as they perform shoddily in public offices.
- Give the six zones a level of autonomy that will enable them control their own resources, manage their own schools, sports, airlines and airports, ships and sea ports, police force, infrastructure, medical services and so on – and pay a percentage of their annual budget to the federal coffers for the maintenance of the Central Bank, Immigration Department and the Armed Forces.
As you campaign for the Presidency, I wish you also remember to tell Nigerians that it is not the party that makes a difference but the quality of the leadership and as you rightly pointed out “the team the leader chooses to work with”. It is not going to be easy. But it is desirable and it is doable. And I wish you good luck.
- Chief Sir Emeka Asinugo, KSC is the Publisher of Imo State Business Link Magazine