FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeFriday, March 14, 2014
eoeke@aol.com


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RETURNING HOPE TO NIGERIA
...PATH FOR A BETTER FUTURE FOR ABIA STATE IN 2015 AND BEYOND

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n series of articles in the last few years, I have chronicled the descent of Nigeria into anarchy, describing the changes and evidence that inform my assertions and suggesting what could be done to stem what seems inevitable. Sadly, it would appear that my worst fears for Nigeria may after all, come to pass and those whose belief that Nigeria is unviable provided them with the excuse to do nothing to save her would see their indifference and cold complicity as wisdom. Even at this very dark hour of Nigeria’s history, I find some reasons to be optimistic about Nigeria and believe that Nigeria will survive, but most likely not in the form it was when Jonathan took power. I believe that out of the ashes of Boko Haram terrorism, murdered innocent Christians, Igbos, youth coopers of all ethnic groups, reprisal killings of innocent northerners in the south, burnt churches and mosques, kidnapping, extortion and impunity by police and institutionalised corruption of the ruling party, that a new Nigeria built on justice as fairness, equality, rule of law and liberty will emerge. This may just be a dream, but it is a dream I am prepared and determined to devote a significant part of my life in the years ahead. A Nigeria that would have learnt the lessons of ethnic and religious intolerance and prejudice, and ready to build a free society: where the people will be guided by civil values and free to pursue liberty and justice. It is for this new Nigeria that I dedicate this article and plan to be a part of.

The available evidence would suggest that nowhere in Nigeria have the effects of corruption, impunity, criminal leadership and bad government been more devastating than in Abia state, where there has been practically no real development since its creation and unimaginable deterioration of civil society. It has been a state where subsequent governments have simply tried to be better than the one it succeeded in all the indices of bad government. The result has been the disintegration in social fabrics, deterioration in security, the decimation of industries, collapse of trade and businesses, resulting in capital flights from one of Nigeria’s greatest commercial towns and degeneration of infrastructures. To put it mildly, Abia state is a failed ‘state’. A state that has failed to take off and in need of a developmental plan, honest, visionary and dedicated leadership and no one in contemporary Nigeria, but those who call Abia home can bring about this desperately needed change.

Many people who have identified the same problem stated above have not offered practical solutions or identify any active role for themselves in its recovery. In a series of article I will outline in details a plan of how well-meaning Nigerians can be part of the change we need. I make this plan not unaware of the strength, and determination of the people who we must oppose to create a better Nigeria. I am very conscious of their capacity and determination to keep things the way they are and how far they would be ready to go to stop people who would be minded to seek change. I am very much cognisant that the people behind the rot in Abia state in particular are very rich and well-connected in the society and would not be pushed over. I also do not have any illusion about the risk those who would dare to oppose them will face. I have counted the cost of this struggle and decided it is worth it and not daunted by the risks and therefore now involved in the struggle for a better Nigeria starting with Abia state.

The success of this dream and how soon it will be realised will however depend, not on the strength of the opposition; but on the determination of those of us who will be minded to get involved. It will depend on our method, which would be peaceful, lawful but sustained. It will depend on our ability to sale our simple, honest and right vision to the people and counter the usual pessimists who are very good at seeing what will never work, but never able to produce any plan, by our determination and willingness to try and learn.

Whether the present Boko Haram and Fulani herds men terrorism, the evolving sectarian attitude of the north, and the worsening endemicity of corruption and break down of the rule of law will make the realisation of the Nigerian dream more difficult or impossible; depends on what every well-meaning Nigerians who are watching this descent into anarchy does or refuse to do. It is not enough to talk, issue condemnation, plan for the demise of Nigeria in clandestine ethnic enclaves or protest with burning tyres on the streets seeking to be included in the official bribery called amnesty; what is required is commitment to a better alternative in a one truly federal Nigeria or a new arrangement, which will give greater autonomy to those who seek it. We must find the determination to bring about the change we need and demonstrate it by getting involved in the search for solutions. These are the only things that can prevent the inevitable consequences of the way Nigeria has conducted its affairs since independence. No amount of fasting and praying, and mass religious hysteria after a long period of starvation and sleep deprivation, would prevent Nigeria from become the latest example of misguided and failed states, if we, ordinary Nigerians, refuse to reclaim our country from the cartel that have brought her to her knees. It is for these reasons and more that I am involved and enlists voluntarily in the search for a better future for our people.

With due respect, without attempting to distract from whatever good contributions they may have made in the development of Nigeria, and with equal conviction that they should be held accountable for their stewardship, it is time for the David Marks, Danjumas, Obasanjos, Chiromas, Buharis, Sarakis, Orjis, Ubas, Atikus, Alamieyeseighas, Tinubus, all those who have been implicated in the thievery that has gone in Nigeria for the last 50 years, to step aside from active politics as Babangida has done, for a new vision. They have had their chance and have been tried and found wanting. They do not have anything to offer Nigeria. They have no new ideology, no novel thinking and no new attitude to life and politics. They do not represent hope, but a terrible past which Nigerians wish to escape. They will only offer more of the same corruption, extrajudicial killings impunity and toxic ethnic nationalism and religious intolerance, which have brought Nigeria to this precipice. To continue to allow them, their stooges or children the reign of power, in a country where they have institutionalised corruption and destroyed the justice system to escape justice would be morally wrong.

These men retiring willingly for politics will not be a sacrifice on their part , but a public declaration that they have tried and failed, and have the moral conscience to step aside for a different generation to try. For this singular act, I commend Babangida for being a good reader of time. They can use their money to support those whose vision represents the best future for Nigeria. In this way they may yet find redemption for their memories. It is time for the many honest and ordinary Nigerians who have been side-lined for too long to take over and try to rebuild the Nigeria we deserve. We can no longer continue to watch Nigeria ripped apart by a misguided rich, corrupt, adamant and powerful and self-serving few, who have no understanding of how to build fair and sustainable societies. The wind of change has come to Nigeria and we must now bring out our sails.

The strength and resources of those who we must oppose to make Nigeria better are formidable, but our determination, discipline, organisation and the rightness of our course will ensure that we prevail. History tells us that the people have always over thrown tyranny, no matter how strong and formidable when they are united, well organised, strategic in their plan and fighting for liberty, equality, tolerance and justice for all. I believe that we will prevail if we show the required determination and tenacity. We do not need to fight with bombs, AK 47, IEDS or car bombs, but with and within the existing imperfect political structure. We do not need a violent revolution that would destroy the gains of past generations but an evolutionary change that will take us to the next level. We know that revolution by nature and as we have seen it in the Arab spring, do not automatically give rise to democracy, security and a better life. That often, the stress of rebuilding what was destroyed during the revolution makes it impossible to actualize the change the people fought for.

We cannot afford to misunderstand wanton destruction of innocent lives and properties as the revolution or the change for the better we need. Nigerians must be aware that every revolution lays the foundation of its success or failure by its nature, what it does and ready to justify at its inception. The storm usually takes a few minutes to destroy what may take years to rebuild. Therefore I condemn the recent wanton burning of churches, mosques, and the roasting of innocent and helpless Nigerians (Southerners and Northerners, Christians and Muslims) in burning tyres because of who they are. I also condemn the systematic ethnic cleansing that is being carried out in Janjaweed style in north Nigeria by Fulani herds men who are burning out villages in Plateau and Benue states.

Why should ordinary Nigerians who have borne the brunt of the rot, be incited to burn alive in a flame, their fellow innocent, law abiding and long suffering brothers and sister. Why should a man or woman die simply because he is Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba Effik Ibibio, Tiv, Christian or Muslim etc.? Which of the innocent victims of this mayhem contributed to the problems of Nigeria? How many of them were paid oil subsides, awarded contracts that were never executed, or misappropriated resources meant for development of power, roads education and health facilities? Why can’t we see that our behaviour and manner of thinking and what we are prepared to rationalize or do are the signs of our madness? No nation becomes great by consuming itself in violence, bigotry, intolerance and wanton destruction of its infrastructure and the present disorder must stop. The security forces must do all in its power to restore order so that the dialogue can start. Nigerian must think and understand that this chaos only benefits those who have caused this problem in the first place because it prevents the change we hope for from becoming a reality.

The fraud of subsidy needs to be resolved. We know those who have been sharing Nigeria oil wealth in the name of subsidy. The government cannot afford not to pursue the reforms the oil sector needs, if it wants to retain any credibility. It is unfortunate that President Jonathan did not prepare the people adequately for the implementation of the policy and chose the wrong time and circumstance to confront one of the most opaque parts of Nigerian economy. He should now begin to put in place measures to cushion the effect of the removal of subsidy and ensure that the money does not find its way into the usual pockets. The government should consider recapitalising the Nigeria student loan and grants board to enable students pay their university school fees. Otherwise, how does the government expect parents who are on 18,000 Naira minimum wage to pay the 250,000naira university school fees, This is how university fees are paid for in developed countries. This measure will convince Nigerians that the government is sincere and that whatever money that is saved from the withdrawal of petroleum subsidy will not end up as food bills for the president, security votes for the governor or unjustifiable allowances for legislators.

The journey to the new Nigeria must now start. Nigerians like Noah, must begin to build an ark of freedom, democracy and equality on the dry land of this chaos. We, like Noah who attempted to convince a people who have never seen rain that a boat is the right preparation for what is coming, must attempt to convince Nigerians , who have never experienced good government and democracy that it is possible and worth fighting for. It is important to paint the picture of how a vibrant democracy can transform a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria and persuade the people to believe in it. If Nigerians can believe in heaven and paradise, it is possible to convince them that a democracy, where their votes count and party member actually elect the leaders of the parties who are accountable to them is possible. Nigeria is just like many other countries and Nigerians are human beings. If democracy can take foot in multi ethnic Britain and America, it can in Nigeria. This idea, that somehow the good things that work in other countries, must express themselves in Nigeria in corrupt forms, is false and self-deception. The good can flourish in Nigeria with the right leadership and this must be the revolution.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.

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