FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeFriday, May 2, 2014
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HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE NIGERIA?

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here is no doubt that Nigeria is at a very critical point in its evolution as a country and its future will depend not so much on what has happened in the past but on what the present generation does or fails to do. Moreover, the extent of the polarisation of opinions and position in the on-going national conference does not give any hope for optimism. The persistent inability of the government to provide visionary leadership and shape a national identity anchored on civil and universal values is a worry. More concerning is the continued fragmentation of the Nigerian identity into ethnic and religious identities, which the people seem to value more than the encompassing Nigeria identity. It is simply irresponsible for any government to think that it can unite its people under a greater identity, when their loyalty is to their ethnicity and religion. It is this failure to imbue the Nigerian identity with certain values, expectations, responsibilities and obligations that has driven people into segregating on the basis of religious beliefs and ethnicity and replacing patriotism with toxic ethnic nationalism and religious intolerance.

The result is the gradual disintegration of Nigeria fuelled by the demand for devolution of power to the regions. This legitimate demand as a result of years of abuse of power and mismanagement of resources by those who control power at the centre can no longer be ignored, if Nigeria will survive as a country. The focus should really be on the negotiation for the parameters of the powers to be devolved. Things are falling apart in Nigeria and the strong, but corrupt centre cannot hold, unless it reinvents itself by renegotiating power, responsibilities, obligations and commitment and this cannot be achieved by the current national conference.

The national conference is a waste of precious time and scarce resources. The number of people in the conference is too much to enable them reach pragmatic consensus. Moreover, all of the things they are grabbling with can be easily accomplished through the national assembly with better credibility and legitimacy because they are the elected responsibility of the people. Instead of a national conference, the president would have appointed a committee of independent experts to examine the Nigerian conundrums and make recommendations as to the various solutions and leave it for the government to study the recommendations and select the most appropriate for Nigeria.

This would have been a better alternative to the national conference where the various ethnic groups have come with predetermined positions, which they are reluctant to renegotiate as a result of mistrust, suspicion and ethnic prejudices. The result is that the north will oppose anything the south says about resources control and state or regional police for fear that it is a smoke screen for balkanisation of Nigeria and eventual independence of the ethnic nations. The north is afraid because it fears that if the south becomes independent, it will have no access to the oil revenue which it has benefit from disproportionately. This is why it would be prepared to go to war to keep Nigeria one and not because it loves the south so much. The cry for unity is informed by self-interest, which is why the south do not believe in its commitment to Nigeria. Indeed, it is obvious that Nigeria has remained a marriage of convenience and like all such marriages, with time, it will inevitably end in divorce because it was contracted for the wrong reason and did not fall in love.

The real question is how one solves a problem like Nigeria. Well, it is simple if the people would show commitment and honesty and give up subterfuge, mistrust and pursuit of selfish interest at the expense of national interest. This is very easy to do. If all Nigerians see themselves first and foremost as Nigerians and commit to putting first the interest of Nigeria over and above all other interests, many of the things the north, south, east and West thinks are not in their best interest will change because they would come to see it in the best interest of Nigeria. The question will no longer be what is in the best interest of the north, south, east or west, but what is in the best interest of Nigeria.

This paradigm shift will enable those opposed to state police to see the logic and reasonableness of independent regional police, which is accountable to an independent police service and complaint commissions entrenched in the statute. They will also see the rational for those who live in the area where natural resources exist to have reasonable control over it. On the other hand, the regions which lay the golden egg will see reason why all parts of Nigeria should benefit from the resources in their region and would agree to revenue sharing formula that would enable all regions to survive, develop and prosper. This can be done with intelligent leadership of the type that exist in many developed countries by men who can think outside the box and not only inside the boxes of ethnicity and religion.

This is why I posit that to solve the Nigeria problem, Nigeria will have to give a system in which the leaders are selected on the basis of ethnic identity and religious affiliation, for one in which people are selected on the basis of competence, vision, character, degree and extend of detribalisation and patriotism. These are the only safe constructs on which the right people to solve the Nigeria problem can be selected. Ethnic champions and religious fanatics who see their relevance on how they push the interest of their group, no matter now unfair to others and unreasonable, cannot provide the leadership that would enable Nigeria develop and solve her problems. Their only interest is to gain national leadership positions to use national resources to benefit their constituency in an unfair and disproportionate manner and perpetuate and worsen the Nigerian problem. As a matter of fact, this has been the case and the reason why every president sites a university and teaching hospital in his village, when universities around his village are struggling from underfunding and mismanagement. They do this, instead of improving existing universities to improve quality and increasing intake because their primary loyalty is not to Nigeria as a country, but to their very narrowly defined ethnic and religious identities. This is the sad reality of Nigeria and many African countries.

This is why I call for a completely new order and paradigm shift away from the existing entrenched primitive absolutes and why I call for the emergence of ideological political parties that are non-religious and non-ethnic, which focuses on Nigeria as a single constituency and will pursue fairness as the basis for its actions. This is also the reason why the current national conference, where every ethnic group and religion is scheming to have their way, irrespective of how unreasonable and unfair it would be to others, is simply an exercise in chaos and confusion and very unlikely to achieve the desired outcome. No people can find a reasonable solution to their problem when objectives are so conflicting, divisive, narrowly defined, anchored on sectarian constructs and outcomes seen as zero sum game.

The current national conference continues to throw up interesting issues and expose the attitude and mind-set of the different ethnic group to the existence of Nigeria. For instance the south wants state police, while the north does not want state police. In such a situation there is no room for compromise. I would think that a compromised situation might be an independent regional police that is accountable to an independent police service and complaint commission

There is no doubt that the northern delegates are very suspicious of the south and tend to believe that the south wants to secede for Nigeria. They are alarmed because they are totally dependent on the oil from the south and would not survive without oil, unless they grow their agrarian economy and exploit the other natural resources in their region or find significant oil reserve.

However, the truth is that all parts of Nigeria is unviable because of endemic corruption and extremism, and even in the regions with oil, its benefit will still be restricted to few. Moreover, the revenue from oil is falling and will continue to fall as the west find alternative sources of energy. Therefore, without a culture of honesty, good government and justice, no part of Nigeria will survive. They will all end up as Sudan, Zimbabwe and Kenya and Central African Republic, consumed by, corruption and religious and ethnic conflicts. This is the inconvenient truth.

Last week, a German scientist produced oil from burning carbon dioxide in water using the sun and had been able to extract synthetic kerosene. If this research succeeds in uncovering the way to produce synthetic fuel, Germany will be able to produce oil by harnessing carbon dioxide, water and sunlight. At the moment, the technology of electric cars has improved with many car manufactures producing hybrid and electric models. A visionary Nigerian leadership which is aware of its responsibilities to Nigeria and future generation, should be concerned with how to diversify the Nigerian economy, which is dependent on oil, improve the competitiveness of the country, lay the foundation for the technological take off and midwife the transition of Nigeria into the 21st century. Even though the quantity of oil purchased by the US has fallen, Nigerian government is not minded to make up the short fall in revenue by other means like agriculture, but seek to get China to buy more Nigerian oil at lower price. This is evidence of the absence of intelligent and strategic thinking in the way and manner Nigeria is governed and the reason can only be the quality of people in leadership positions in Nigeria.

What Nigeria needs is to diffuse the atmosphere of suspiciousness and paranoia between the various ethnic groups and religions currently enveloping it and agree a devolution plan that would transfer power to the regions, while at the same time, strengthening the Nigeria identity by adding value to it. I can explain how this can be done if the government buys the idea. What I am trying to do is demonstrate that the Nigerian problem has solutions and the problem is getting those who know the solution into power.

To start with, the Nigerian federal government should devolve Education further, health and social welfare, and police to the regions and not states. This can go on irrespective of the state structure and incentive put in place for states that wants to merge with the view to eventually scrap the state structure and revert to three or six regions. This would be the most important and revolutionary economic and political decision Nigeria would make to guarantee its future as a united and viable country.

This would be a very smart thing to do in view of the current cost of government and fragmentation into states on the basis of very narrowly defined ethnic identities. It will create a smaller and smarter accountable government, which will seek to unit different peoples under an encompassing Nigerian identity. At the moment Nigeria is over governed and politics is the most lucrative economic enterprise in Nigeria, which is why many people want to be in politics. The return from political office in Nigeria is disproportionate excessive and criminal, and must also be reformed.

Senators and legislators should not earn more than the chief Judge. They should be paid reasonable allowance and salary and their expenses for running their office paid for. These expenses should be pegged. Nigerians should know what each senator, governor, legislator councillor etc., cost and should ensure that it is reasonable and reflects its economic reality.

To allow the status quo to continue because a few thinks they will benefit from it, is to cut ones nose to spite one’s face. The Nigerian ship can be saved, but the current crew do not seem to know whether to seal the hole in the hull or evacuate the ship. Nigeria needs a captain who can save the ship and the passengers and sail the troubled ship to shore.

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