E O EkeSunday, April 27, 2014
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want to revisit corruption and criminality in Nigeria. Not because there is more that has not been said, but because its nature and pervasiveness makes terrorism attractive to disfranchised and ignorant and criminality almost a moral choice to those with natural disadvantage. A government that is prepared to lie, when the lives of children are at risk, puts the interest of politicians over and above those of the people and sees virtue in the pursuit of selfish and sectarian interests, is a government that has lost its humanity and moral authority to rule. They only government that would suffice in Nigeria is one that is prepared to set ethnic and religious interests aside to lead by example, without fear or favour under the rule of law and law alone. Such a government must be prepared to wage the war against corruption in with sincerity and lead in the development of a culture of honesty through accountability and transparency.

Nothing will change in Nigeria, until the leaders give up their greed, hubris and contempt for the law and change their attitude to corruption. The idea that a country can pay lip service to corruption in the way and manner successive Nigeria government have done, by allowing people to benefit from it and expect the country to develop is to say the least self-deception. This is why, it is imperative for the political parties to publish details of their policies and f how they would address the scourge of corruption and extremism in their manifestoes, so that the people can examine their sincerity and viability in order to hold them accountable when they gain power. In addition, they should publish their economic plan with details of how they plan to finance the economy, showing how much they plan to spend on each sector and what they plan to achieve. This is the minimum Nigerians expect of any political party to believe in its sincerity, intentions and commitment to Nigeria and Nigerians.

Nigeria needs to embrace intelligent politics and government that operate on evidence, the rule of law and knowledge. What Nigeria needs is a government that is committed to diversifying the economy, in an aggressive manner, has commitment for social justice, prepared to address inequality, determined to invest in infrastructures, able to costs its projects, stick to its budget and have a clear idea of how to grow the economy, where the money will come from and how to make up any short fall in a sustainable manner that would not entail excessive indebtedness. One does not need to have a PhD in economics or worked in the World Bank to achieve this, if one is honest, sincere committed and loves Nigeria as a country.

Nigeria needs a government that believes in balanced budget and cutting its coat according to its cloth and able to do more with less. Nigeria needs a government that would address the waste in the system by closing all the holes through which criminal elements in power are bleeding the country dry. Nigeria does not need a government which has no shame in displaying stolen wealth, shows no remorse for its criminal actions, maintains a fleet of jets, spend billions in official quarters and ‘security votes’ and drive expensive armoured cars, while millions of Nigerians live in poverty, their children die of preventable disease and millions of the children who survive unable to obtain basic education and gravitate to criminality and extremism.

The existence of immunity clause in the Nigerian constitution, how it has been abused and the reluctance of the politicians to change it, are the clearest evidence of the criminal intention of the Nigerian ruling class. If not, how can a people think that the protection of those who break the law and jeopardise the interest of the country should be given priority? Why would a people elect to protect criminals, while they are committing the crime and at the very time, it is most likely that the evidence of the crime can be found? It is very clear to objective minds that no government or party can succeed in changing Nigeria, until it makes total war against corruption one of its cardinal manifestoes, promise to expunge all immunity clauses in the Nigerian constitution and set in place mechanism to hold all to account. This is the minimum any political party needs to promise to do in office, to be taken seriously.

At the moment, the usual suspects and criminals have lined up, without any sense of remorse, and no intention that they have learnt their lesson and in the absence of evidence that they would do anything, apart from continuing where they stopped. Sectarianism which simply means excessive devotion to a particular sect especially in religion or ethnicity has remained the major driving force behind the attitude, thinking and conduct of the politicians. This has left them very narrow minded and not able to act in a fair and just manner towards all. Sadly sectarianism has become a rather enduring feature of Nigerian politics and we are currently suffering its effects in the activities of boko haram, MEND, and MASSOB, who believe that the pursuit of their religious or and ethnic interests at the expense of the well-being of others, is a great thing. They convince themselves that there is something honourable in a man doing evil to another man because he wants to achieve good for his ethnic group or religion. This is the travesty, evil, ignorance and illogicality of sectarianism and why it must have no place in the new Nigeria.

In 1964, Basil Davidson a veteran journalist in his book ‘Which way Africa ‘for saw many of the things that are happening in Nigeria and many African countries today. He compared Rwanda and Nigeria and identifies that the factors that finally led to the Nigeria civil war and Rwanda genocide in both countries, but few people paid attention. He wrote “at the end of 1959 the people forming the majority in Rwanda, the Hutu, took advantage of the relaxed colonial authority to rise against the traditional overlords, the Tutsi. Constituting some four-fifth of the population, the Hutu considered that Tutsi rule had become oppressive and out-of-date. They desired to throw it off” In fact, the idea of the Hutu eliminating the Tutsi was first spoken about in 1930 and the Belgian Bishop of Rwanda, Monsignor Classe, said that it would be the greatest disservice which the government would do to itself.

In 1994, the Hutus decided it was a good idea and carried out the genocide and we know the result today. The root of this evil was in sectarianism. Today, the rest of Africa have kept quiet while Christians carry our genocide in against Muslims in central Africa Republic and South Sudan commits unspeakable atrocities against themselves in the struggle for power amongst two major ethnic groups. Meanwhile, Nigeria dithers on the edge of a precipice with the polarised attitude of the north towards Islam and the hardening attitude of the south for autonomy in a loose federation, where resource controlled is devolved to the regions. This is the perfect recipe for the kind of civil war raging in Sudan at the moment. This problem requires intelligent solution which only those with strategic thinking and visionary outlook can provide. Who amongst the current interlopers is able to offer the compromise solution which Nigeria needs and manage the dissatisfaction from all which the right solution would evoke?

Today in Nigeria, sectarianism is seen as a good a thing. It is promoted my politicians in the name of ethnic nationalism and the government is not doing anything to sensitise the people against the evils of parochial advancement of sectarian interest at the expense of National interests and vilification and denigration of other groups and people who are different. We have the Oha na Eze in the east, Arewa Consultative Forum in the north, Afanifere in the west and many other sectarian organisations, which are unnecessarily overheating the political temperature of the country in the pursuit of selfish and narrowly defined objective unaware that their sectarianism is putting a knife to the things that hold Nigeria together. Many things are seen only from either a religious or ethnic lenses without any effort to offer an objective view, which will be just and fair to all. It is this pursuit of sectarian interests that is destroying Nigeria. No one hears any northern leader talking about Nigeria. It is always about the north and how the rest of Nigeria must grant the north what it wants or there will be mayhem.

The best legacy Jonathan can bequeath to Nigeria is a federal structure that devolves sufficient power to the regions to address the current imbalance that give disproportionate power to the federal government and fuel the dare devil struggle for power at the centre.

Nigeria should now accept that the experiment is over and that it is impossible to have a common pause, when only one region puts into it and another wants to control it. Few days ago, three governors from east gave their support to Jonathan as if they are the people who vote at elections. This increasing trend of governors pretending that they can decide who the people will vote for at elections and therefore trading the support of the people for their own selfish political fortune is another demonstration of the arrogance and duplicity of the political elites.

Among them is the governor of Abia state, a man who was arrested and detained for corruption he committed as Chief of staff of his predecessor and released from detention to become governor and who has spent his 8 years as governor doing nothing but looting the state treasury. In the last 15 years, Abia state has been under PDP governors the state has gone from bad to worse and the people from perplexity to despair. He sees himself as an Igbo leader, but like his predecessors, has nothing concrete to show for his tenure, but phantom projects. Now he is scheming to end up in the senate to continue to avoid prosecution by committing to support Jonathan. These men are not supporting Jonathan because they believe that he has performed, they are supporting him because that is their one ticket to escape prosecution for their corruption and mismanage during their term. Yes Jonathan has allowed many of the things which Obasanjo prevented because of his hatred of Igbos as a people and personal spit, but under his watch, Nigeria has gone from bad to worse in terms of security, social investment and equal opportunity. Of course, as long as he supports Jonathan he will not be brought to justice for his thievery while in office. These are the calibre of people who parade themselves as Igbo leaders. Well, they can have all the money in the world, we know that they stole it while in government and will never command a true respect from civilised people.

They find relevance in divisive politics, which is why they wear their ethic identity as a badge and use it as the fulcrum on which their politics revolve. They never talk about ideological politics. You never hear them talking about their political values. They are only interest in politics of intrigues that sets one group against another in the struggle for power, and not developing the whole country, but to continue to dominate their people and project themselves as saviours. They like to be seen as protectors of the people from their imaginary enemies and like Robert Mugabe use the fact that they fought for freedom as the excuse for all their evils.

The fact is that, there is no ethnic hatred between Igbos and Hausas, or Igbos and Yorubas. Ordinary Igbos fall in love and intermarry with Yorubas and Hausas. Igbos live in peace with Hausas in the north and Yorubas in the West. The problem comes when these corrupt politicians use ethnicity to play their sectarian politics. Each time there is crisis, the people that are killed are Nigerian who once lived in peace and the people that benefit are the leader who become more powerful.

As I have argued repeatedly, sectarianism is a poison which the ruling class is using to poison and weaken Nigeria so that they can continue to divide and rule. I suppose it is time for Nigerian to say no to sectarianism and hold the leaders to account so that they can make the necessary social and economic investments the country needs to enable all achieve their potential.

I would therefore suggest that Nigerians boy cut the next election, if they do not find a party with an appealing manifesto, which addresses the problems that are destroying the country. What Nigeria must resist is the attempt by some politicians to use religion or ethnicity as their rallying point for their quest for power. Religious leaders must take themselves out of politics and not allow their churches and Mosques to be used as campaign grounds. Failure to do this, will poison the Nigerian polity further with the divisiveness and intolerance and bigotry and Nigeria would be saying ‘bye bye’ to peaceful co-existence as the major religion and ethnic groups battle for supremacy instead of working for peaceful co-existence. We need to learn from Egypt, Northern Ireland and Iraq what happens when religion or ethnicity becomes the fulcrum on which the political wheel rotates.

It takes a number of terrorist attacks to destroy the faith of people in their country and those who can leave will start leaving. Once this exodus starts that country is finished as no intelligent and qualified person would like to raise his children in such a country. It is time for Nigerian politicians to start giving thoughts to what a stable and peaceful country should be like with the view to pursue it. It does not help Nigeria when children of politician display pomp and pangentry made possible by thievery of their parent. Nigerians are getting angry, the kidnapping and armed robbery are warning shorts. Soon, kidnappers will become better organised and with a demoralised police force, which lacks both the resources, experience and training it needs, the country will become ungovernable. It is time to take the problems that are destroying Nigeria more seriously.