Sunday, January 20, 2019
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Jos, Nigeria

let’s face it. Nigeria is not making good progress, will not make good progress and cannot make good progress given prevailing status quo because the quest for political advancement is greatly hampered by the people’s mindset which had been badly shaped by fear, ignorance, tribal and religious sentiments and chief of all; greed through all these years of master-servant co-existence.

This retrogressive mindset is the main reason why needed institutions do not exist and also the reason why those that existed are ossifying. The truth is that Nigerians are quite a difficult people to please; give and take. For instance, petty businesses do not survive beyond a few years after takeoff and then died because the people do not understand that their patronage was necessary to encourage survival.

They loved to see businesses crashed because they hated folks who started small or according to their financial capability. And if the business started strong, they are miffed when they do not get a discount on their patronage. In government business, files – no matter what was in the file – hardly had a smooth ride without giving or taking bribes. It is unfortunate that many are yet to connect prosperity with peaceful coexistence and this explained the inverse proportion of insecurity to standard of living.

In politics and governance, both the electorate and the elected to serve are yet to realize that political advancement was a movement from one form of political narrative or style of governance that once existed to a comparatively better one. That it is a step-by-step progression that required that the government in power focused on accomplishing one strategic need and allowing another government to accomplish something else.

The question is: What can we do to make Nigeria a truly great country? The answer to this question is indeed long but – for me – it begins with attitudinal transformation. When the people begin to have the consciousness of accountability to God, it helps to make for true conduct before men. When this consciousness existed, religion and race will no longer be a dividing incident but a motivator.

I have followed political narratives right from the days of Nigeria’s military president – Ibrahim Babangida – and one thing that I can say with authority is that WE ARE OUR GREATEST ENEMY. Think of it this way; if I invested impunity in my children, will I be surprised to bring up unruly children in the end? I swear that something is not right with the way we thought and acted. Our refusal to think out-of-the-box is the reason we are jammed and desperately searching for the magician that’ll fix the situation.

Magicians are not in politics. This is the reality. Any fix will require that you and me did only one thing and that is: To change our mindset. One of the headline news today (10/01/2019) was the statement credited to the President, who said he was not going to use public funds for his campaign. As usual, it was greeted with the cheers and the boos that came from friends and foes.

To wit, what the president said made sense but the problem was that despite it has become a culture to have the ‘failed magicians’ or those we called politicians turned to the coffers of government for needed funds with which to run campaign expenses, and despite that the president’s campaign had itself benefited both in the past and the present from public funds; his statement came as the soliloquy of a drunkard.

The proportion of those who jeered him far outnumbered those who applauded him. True; the process of beginning a whole new narrative in our politics no doubt always suffered the treatment of ostracized. It is not the character of man to embrace change with open hands. Those who trigger the process of change frequently ended up like orphans. They are mocked, abused, vilified and treated with ignominy.

I remember the story of the British captain who discovered the cure for scurvy. Quite accidentally, he found out that oranges quickly brought relieve to victims of the disease and made bold steps to publish his findings but as always, he was ridiculed. It took almost a half century after for the British society and indeed the world to accept that vitamin C which came from citrus could cure scurvy.

Another problem with his statement was that it required a process for this idea to be drummed into the consciousness of Nigerians. And if the APC would spare-head the process, it was most likely to do a bad job. This is because it is impossible to track these slush funds that find its way into campaign expenses. It is a known practice that funds are routed or laundered by simply stating that those monies were used to purchase needed items.

The Financial Intelligence Unit do not yet have enough manpower to go round as they strove to fight corruption. The other time, very huge amounts were discovered in an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos state. That represents one of the many incidences that went on before our eyes everyday. Legitimate items are listed as office materials to be purchased but nobody really bothered to find out whether or not they are eventually purchased.

Monies go into our so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the form of donations from our politicians but are collected at the other end and used to achieve one illegitimate aim or the other. And even if the CBN was instructed to mop up the monies in circulation; it will still not be able to prevent the politicians from dipping hands in our pot of soup to finance their selfish ambitions.

Also the siege on Senator Dino Melaye’s residence by officers of the Nigerian Police brought to the fore – as always – the mentality of our people. While some deferred that the police had no legal precedence to embark on such an obnoxious venture others posit that the Senator himself had no rights to resist arrest.

Now, the law is clear on the matter; that it was criminal for a citizen to resist arrest but against what law can we explain the clear intention of the IGP to stop the senator from standing in for the forthcoming election and, using state power to accomplish this? This brings us to the question of bringing into existence relevant institutions vested with powers to operate independently.

Although Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson in WHY NATIONS FAIL, have said that the presence or absence of institutions are the reason why nations prospered or failed; it is a known reality that no people ever operated above their level of thinking. In other words, institutions existed if the people’s mindset agreed with the idea that it should exist.

Look at the picture of our well qualified Godwin Emefiele bowing beside Isah Funtua as if he bowed to his boss. Such sights are possible because the institution known as the central bank of Nigeria did not exist as a result of the collective agreement of every Nigerian. While some believed in the CBN’s right of autonomy others continued to see the apex bank as an apex joke or an appendage of the kitchen cabinet.

This is why it cannot operate without political interference. Till date, the process of bidding for government contracts is still influenced by selfish interest. Yet there is a well organized process of bidding for contracts. In a few weeks from now, our elections will commence but not every Nigerian seemed to believe that both the INEC and the APC had the character to deliver a free and fair elections.

It is not as though there aren’t institutions that could deliver. The problem is and will always be about the character of those who manned the institution. Do they have a fair enough orientation to act in the over all interest of the Nigerian people? Are they easily swayed by sentiments of race or religion? Like the police; can one say they are non-partisan enough to participate in the elections to the satisfaction of 75% Nigerians?

So, when we talked about political advancement; our concern should really dwell on upgrading our mindset to be able to par with whatever we instituted. It was Lee Kuan Yew who once said that to create a First World economy, he had to first educate and re-orient his people that they begin to think like folks in the First World by creating a system that challenged them to upgrade from their Third World habits.

We saw the drama between the Dailytrust newspaper and the Nigerian Army the other day. Both sides were wrong in my opinion. The army would’ve simply instituted a law suit against the Publisher if it had strong evidence to prove it. In this way, the media world would’ve learnt the lesson that no one could’ve taught them even with military brute and the lesson is that freedom of information isn’t completely free but comes with a responsibility.

The power of mentality is the cause of Nigeria’s rise and fall story of political advancement. When we take this knowledge and use it as background check for all that has happened to this federation since independence; we will easily see for ourselves why we’ve not made much progress. As background check, use it to contrast between countries that has made progress and those that has not. We will find this power of mentality playing again.