49 YEARS TO NIGERIA'S CENTENARY (4)
In this concluding part of the four-part series, we need to discuss, as a matter of expediency, leadership and following, and the role they play in the advancement of the ideals of a nation, particularly Nigeria. The progress a nation makes is largely dependent on the kind of leadership and following it enjoys. Sadly, Nigeria has not been lucky with leadership since the era of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Blewa and Ahmadu Bello, etc., came to an abrupt end. The demise of the First Republic was as a result of the 1966 Coup that had recurring debilitating impact on the nation's socio-political development. The coup somewhat constricted the space for the practice of democratic government and equitable distribution of power between the North and South. This destructive phenomenon has continued to work against the sustainable culture of equity and fairness in the sharing of other sensitive political offices.
I do not want to delude myself that all is well with leadership in Nigeria, even with the current persuasive and novel approach President Jonathan has brought into governance. He sees his transformational agenda as the ultimate solution to the leadership albatross the nation has lived with for some time now. It is only a strong, visionary and God-fearing leader that can take Nigeria successfully to 2060 – her year of centenary. Any jaundiced, pretentious, tribal and morally bankrupt leader that comes after Jonathan's tenure will lead the nation to doom. All that we need to channel the huge resources of Nigeria into gainful enterprises and solidify the bond that binds us together is the consistent production of a generation of leaders with the qualities enunciated by Dallek - the American Presidential Historian. Dallek lists the qualities every good leader must possess before he qualifies to lead as vision, consensus building, trustworthiness, charisma and pragmatism. How many leaders, past and present, could boast of all these qualities? If their answer is in the negative, then what gave them the moral right to aspire to lead in the first place?
It is unfortunate that many of those that have run the affairs of this great nation in the past 14 years have not maximized all the opportunities available to them. Their tenures did not do much to realize the dreams of the founding fathers of Nigeria. We need a generation of transformers to take Nigeria to its God-given destination. It is, therefore, gladdening that President Jonathan has seen the wisdom in championing a transformational agenda as a platform to foster and entrench the desired change in the polity. The transformational initiative may not be able to overcome the initial crisis that usually befalls such enterprises if it is not founded on a well-laid out platform that will incorporate value reorientation and civic education as its core curricula. Unless the people are sufficiently reoriented to believe in Nigeria and work for it to survive, all the effort to enforce transformational package will amount to a mere goose-chase.
The Buhari/Idiagbon regime made appreciable impact with their War Against Indiscipline (WAI), because it was well-formulated, pragmatic, transparent, and value and people-oriented. Whatever programme anybody develops that does not involve mass-participation by the people will not work well in Nigeria. I think Jonathan has started well with his own transformational agenda, since he has embraced the need to involve every stratum of society in the planning and implementation stages of the package.
Redefining our federalism is of paramount importance. I am aware that the issue has generated heated debates over the years. Nonetheless, I wish to observe, rather regrettably, that the federating units that constitute the entity called Nigeria do not possess the liberty and strength of character required of them. This has exposed them to manipulation by power-drunk politicians to achieve their selfish ends. Even though there is supposed to be a synergy between these confederating units, what we have had so far is a generally disjointed amalgam of strange bedfellows. Probably, this is responsible for the vociferous agitation by the various rival ethnic groups to seek some autonomy from the centre. The states are not left out in this campaign to redefine the terms of our collective existence as a people, in spite of the differences in language, religion and tribe. It is the general notion that power is heavily concentrated at the centre to the detriment of the confederating units. In a well-defined confederation, there is some equitability in the way and manner power is devolved. This, no doubt, informed the establishment of the Federal Character Commission. There would not have been any need for the commission, in the first place, if all the ingredients for the fostering of confederation had been put in place.
Critical issues such as revenue sharing formula, appointments into sensitive federal positions, devolution of powers among the three tiers of government (executive, legislature and judiciary), balance of power among the various security agencies and correlativity in gender matters should be properly addressed before Nigeria can stand on a steady path of serious development.
It is a tragedy that 51 years after independence we are yet to address these issues, which are central to our national development and existence. Even differences in language, religious, culture and other biases should not be overlooked. This is because they also influence, to a large extent, how other ethos of nationalism function. It is not enough to pay-lip service to nationalism; we should be seen to be living it out in the way we think and act.
So, for Nigeria to attain greatness by 2060, it is imperative we evolve a functional confederation in which every unit will enjoy real autonomy – contributing to the centre only when it is legitimate and statutory. Not definitely the present practice of the centre seemingly lording it over complementary components!
Let us zero into the judiciary, which is the bastion of our present democracy. The judiciary has never failed to stand up in defence of the integrity of the nation. It has successfully over the years delivered judgments that have had far-reaching impact on the nation's life. I wonder what would have happened to the unity, sovereignty and survival of the nation without the judiciary. Unfortunately, the same judiciary is passing through its most excruciating times in the annals of our nation, necessitating the Chief Justice of the Federation to set up a committee headed by former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Muhammadu Uwais, to recommend how best to reform the judiciary. The action of the CJN should be approved by every well-meaning Nigerian, because of its crucial nature. The best way to reform the judiciary is to make it truly independent and autonomous; so that it can boldly take decisions that will enhance the rapid development of our nation.
The United States, Britain, France and Germany have had stable democracy largely because of the unfettered autonomy enjoyed by their judiciary. Since the interpretation of the statutes and constitution rests squarely on the shoulders of the judiciary, it then means that the enforcement of rule of law is also dependent on the courageous pronouncements by the judiciary on issues that border on national life. By implication, a lousy and fidgety judiciary is antithetical to democracy. What this means then is that we need to put in place framework for the development of a more robust, independent and courageous judiciary that will support the emergence of a new Nigeria.
The legislature in Nigeria has enjoyed some robust and complementary relationship with the executive for their individual satisfaction. This, nevertheless, has not produced much benefit to the nation. In fact, the performance of the executive is supposed to be regulated, in a way, by the resilience and boldness of the legislature in the discharge of its duties. A weak legislature naturally produces an inept, lacklustre leadership.
Again, we need to dedicate Nigeria to God. There are too many evils plaguing our survival. From all intents and purposes, God is not too happy with Nigeria. We need to rededicate ourselves to the service of God and man. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that God loves Nigeria so much that he has kept us together, despite the plots by disgruntled elements to divide us. What is happening in Nigeria, which causes wars in other lands, has not plunged us into the same war. We have managed to wade through them successfully. However, there is a limit to what God can do for us. After all, he helps only those that help themselves. We should not take for granted his unmerited grace upon our nation. Nations of the world that went against the statutes of God were seriously recompensed. But, in our case, we have come out of it all unscathed.
By wasting the rare opportunities God has provided us to advance as a nation, we are jeopardising the future of generations of Nigerians yet unborn. What contingency plan have we put in place to tackle any uncertainty that may arise in future? Take, for instance, oil: will it last forever? What happens if the wells dry up tomorrow without any pre-signs? Do we have an alternative strategy to deal with the exigency? These are issues we should give serious thought to as we plan for our centenary. As suggested in one of the earlier articles on this series, return to agriculture and industrialization is the only alternative. We must reorder our priorities also. By this I mean, we should place greater emphasis on those activities that will affect positively every aspect of our national development.
This brings us to the issue of following. The Nigerian people are generally very resilient, hardworking, creative and enterprising. They are ever-ready to adapt to any situation, no matter how intricate or difficult. This is one attribute that distinguishes them from the nationals of other countries. Even though they are usually maligned and derogated outside the shores of this country for unjustifiable reason, Nigerians have remained resolute and undaunted. This is what some persons have chosen to call the 'indomitable Nigerian spirit'. Nonetheless, the major challenge is how to harness these useful qualities for nation-building. Often, the incredible energies of Nigerians, particularly the youths, have been grossly misapplied. The prevailing high crime rate and other social misdemeanours is the product of this misapplication. In my thinking, these energies can be channelled into productive ventures that will generate quality results for both the individuals and the nation.
It is very sad that the large population of our youths is engaged in crimes, instead of self-development and furthering of the interests of the nation. This negative phenomenon manifests clearly during elections, where politicians capitalize on the vulnerability of the youths to achieve selfish goals. Is it not true that politicians lure our youths into perilous adventures such as election-rigging, violence, brigandage and other vices that have negative influence on them and impede our march to democratic freedom?
We cannot, therefore, develop into a world superpower without making the citizenry imbibe basic ethos and tenets that propel development. The most important of these tenets is self-discipline and courage to say no to negative tendencies. It is always very certain that politicians will resort to the use of the youth at elections to win votes. But what happens if these youth say no to such politicians? That will mark the death-knell of these mischievous politicians. Crimes and other social vices thrive because the people (following) have played acquiescent and condescending role either as accomplices or accessories. If the people (electorate) refuse to be manipulated by greedy politicians there is nothing much the politicians can do to succeed in their nefarious activities. This is why I have always called for a change of heart on the part of the people. They should embrace the transformational agenda of the government (no matter that similar campaigns in the past had failed) and submit themselves to positive inclinations that will shape their behaviour and personality appropriately.
The undeniable truth is that Nigeria's growth has been stunted by the palpable docility and gullibility of the populace. They seem not to be too bothered about how their country is run, provided nobody disturbs their lives. Some of them have incredibly said that they would be content with any government in power providing them just the basic needs of life. This attitude is not only defeatist, but unpatriotic and self-effacing. As custodians of power, it is absolutely the right of citizens to demand accountability and good governance from their government. Again, the media, as the watchdog of society, have a major role to play here in stimulating public awareness about the performance of any government to enable the people to objectively access such a government. Working in collaboration, the media and the people can serve as the conscience of the nation and help keep the government on its toes. This collaboration has become increasingly imperative, in view of the continued effort to elevate Nigeria's stature and rating in global politics and economy.
I would advise President Jonathan to stick to his transformation agenda, in spite of the scathing criticisms from some armchair critics. It may be rough today, but there is a silver lining in the sky. Everything points to a rosy future for Nigeria if we can put our acts together as a nation and as a people. We should learn from the mistakes of other nations that went through similar experiences to be where they are today. The United States presents a typical example. At least, we have so much to learn from it, having copied our present presidential system of government from them.
I must not fail to commend the tenacity of Nigerians who have borne the pain of misgovernment for a long time. Since our overall desire is to take Nigeria to global limelight, we should brace up to greater challenges that lie ahead, bearing in mind that in the end we will have cause to smile. The histories of great, successful nations are laced with vicissitudes, which is why they are globally acknowledged for their indomitable doggedness.
I look forward to the day Nigeria will be recognized at the United Nations as one of the superpowers and permanent members. That day must come - even if some of us alive today may be dead by then. Let me remind all Nigerians that we must stand up and work for the peace, progress and prosperity of Nigeria so that the incoming generation will bless posterity and us not cause us. If we failed to play our part - individually or collectively - today we will have mortgaged the future of our nation, which our forbears laid down their lives to found.
I pray God to bless and keep Nigeria united.
Happy 100 years in advance!