FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeMonday, June 10, 2013
eoeke@aol.com


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THERE WILL BE A COUNTRY (PART 1)

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or several years, I have pondered on the reasons for inability of Nigeria to actualise its great potential and join the community of developed nations. About four years ago the idea of Nigerians for Change first occurred to me as I continued to watch the insidious effect of corruption, ineffectual leadership, religious intolerance, toxic ethnic nationalism and prejudice and the general attitude of Nigerians to the rule of law, impunity and criminality. I came to the conclusion that what Nigerian needs to survive as a viable country, is for its enlightened, honest and tolerant minds to come together in a none ethnic and none religious political organisation, with the single purpose to fashion out a new strategy to enable civil and democratic values take root in the country by transforming the quality of governance through good leadership and promoting enlightenment. The challenge now, is how to transform this theoretical solution to the Nigerian quagmire, into reality by finding effective strategies to deal with the usual monsters on the road to progress.

In the intervening period, I have taken time to research the various problems of Nigeria, and pondered on several solutions. I have also talked to different Nigerians, debated the causes of the problems and solutions and formed an independent view of what Nigerians need to do to begin the recovery the country desperately needs, break the hold corruption ethnicity and religion have on the minds of the people and enable them embrace reason and knowledge; in the way and manner they are embraced in developed countries which has helped their progress. I have also realised that there are many types of Nigerians, those who are benefiting from the status quo, those who are waiting for their opportunity to loot, those who would like change but not prepared to risk anything because they are comfortable in their exiled countries, they will pledge everything but their time and commitment and a small patriotic, honest and committed Nigerians who will work for change if they are convinced that the strategy is credible and would be effective. It is for this last group of Nigerians that I write.

On December 21 2011, I sent the mail below to a number of Nigerians who at that time left me with the impression that they are as concerned as I am, about the state of Nigeria. A few of them responded and made useful comments which I have followed up.

Dear fellow Nigerians
Letter of Invitation to Nigerians.

As we are all aware, our homeland, Nigeria, is passing through a myriad of social, economic, religious, political, and other ethnic problems threatening its stability and corporate existence as a viable nation. These problems are the cumulative dividends of over 50 years of failed leadership which successive military and civilian administrations have never quite figured out how to resolve and develop the national economy for the benefit of the citizenry.

Since the country’s independence in 1960, corruption has spread its hydra headed tentacles over the land: Merit has been thrown to the winds, and conditions close to anarchy have been let loose on innocent, unsuspecting, helpless citizens. The current political structures have only served the interests of a greedy and corrupt few. Education, widely recognized as the greatest social equalizer in other societies, has been totally ignored. Nigerian medical facilities remain ill-equipped, poorly staffed, and neglected because the powerful and nouveau riche routinely patronize medical facilities in America, Europe, India and Saudi Arabia whenever they experience ill-health. Yet they don’t stop to question the enabling environments in which those medical facilities have thrived.

The Nigerian Airways and the Nigerian Railways corporations have been literally “exploited to death” by corrupted politics. Nigeria has not laid a single new rail line since independence and the transport sector remains underdeveloped. The contracts for many roads in Nigeria have been awarded many times by succeeding governments only for the roads to remain unmotorable. Nigerians feel no necessity to take driving lessons and pass a driving test before going behind the wheels. The result is the carnage on our Roads which leaves Nigeria with the worst Road traffic statistics in the world.

Religious differences that ought to be celebrated and tolerated as a symbol of dynamic social order have been hijacked by those with a rigid, uncompromising viewpoint and theological interpretations that seek to alienate a majority of the citizens of other faiths. Equal protection laws on the books have been neglected and are not being enforced to guarantee the liberties of all Nigerian citizens who live or do business in states other than where their ancestors were born. People get killed with impunity by hoodlums and members of the police and armed forces and nothing happens to the perpetrators of the heinous crimes.

The elected politicians have remain corrupt and focused on serving very narrowly defined self, religious and ethnic interests that threaten the survival of all. Our legislators have abused their position to pass laws that make conviction of corrupt politicians almost impossible and secure their excessive and prohibitive remunerations by laws that should have no place in any accountable democracy. In a country with a minimum wage of less than twelve hundred dollars a year, the average legislator earns about eight hundred thousand dollars a year.

The Nigerian educated classes including those in the Diaspora have not made their voices heard. A greater majority of them continues to interact essentially within their own ethnic/tribal, religious or clannish divisions. The existing ethnic and religious organisations, being limited in resources and impact, cannot address the great challenges facing the Nigerian nation no matter their local impact. How can we as citizens of the Nigerian nation feel the sense of our common destiny, and fulfil the demand history makes on us?

Over the past few years, I have pondered over these issues and discussed them with a great many Nigerians, some of whom feeling there was no way to influence change in Nigeria, decided to give up their citizenships. Some of them have described Nigeria as a lost course and urged me to give up on a sinking ship. A fraction believes strongly that Nigerian problem stem from its structure and have refused to consider any solution that is not primarily geared towards enabling them achieve greater degree of monoethnic autonomy. I have also had several discussions on the current deterioration at home with some Nigerians who share a view that change for the better is possible. What these people have not unanimously agreed upon is the mode of change, the change agent, and the structural organization that would equitably replace the existing order.

With the development in the Middle East, and the increasing terrorist activities of Boko Haram, it is not unthinkable that the situation in Nigeria may suddenly change for the worst. What Nigeria does not need is a violent revolution that would result in loss of lives, destruction of properties and loss of any loss of the little gains we have made since independence. I would want to believe that no Nigerian wants Nigeria to end up like Somalia or Afghanistan. I have also been advised that the formation of a non-religious, non-ethnic, socio-political umbrella organization for all persons of Nigerian descent might help to facilitate a dialogue that will eventually influence political change in Nigeria. I think Nigerians in the Diaspora have a huge responsibility and obligation to catalyse the envisaged, desperately needed change in the motherland. I believe that there is a reason why each of us has had the opportunity to live and experience life outside Nigeria. Perhaps the time has come for us to play our part in the evolution of our country.

That is why I have been encouraged by Cephas Tardzer, a practicing Accountant living in the state of Florida, (USA) to write this letter and solicit the views of Nigerians and feelings about what’s happening in Nigeria, including your views and feelings about the possibility of forming an all-Nigerian socio-political organization that will transcend ethnic and religious boundaries, devoted to promoting national consciousness, integration, peace, evolving the structure for our coexistence and good governance.

Please let me hear from you at your earliest convenience what could be done to address the national problems that threaten Nigeria. It would be something morally inexplicable to do nothing at the time of one's country's greatest need no matter the constrains.

When you write, please state, whether you would like the proposed organization to be structured as a socio-cultural or political entity, any organizational articles and by-laws you would like to see incorporated in the organization’s document to ensure that it does not succumb to the problems that plague similar Nigerian organisations. The country in which you’d like the entity incorporated (USA, UK, or Nigeria). How and when its board of directors and executives should be elected and the mechanisms that needs to be put in place for holding them to account by members.

The corporate logo, other aims and objectives, and generally how to make the Organization successful in achieving the overriding object of electing honest and patriotic Nigerians into offices who would work for good and accountable government that is responsive to the wishes and aspiration of the greater majority of Nigerians. Please also offer suggestion about how to fund the organisation in view of the economic power of the people who we must oppose to make Nigeria better.

Thank you

Yours sincerely

E O Eke

Since sending this letter in 2011, I have had several discussions and suggestions from many people on how to make the idea work. These suggestions have been incorporated in the original idea that Nigeria needs a new organisation that will use the existing imperfect system to attempt to bring about the change we need in a civilised and democratic manner. First we need to lay a solid foundation on which to build this association. I can report that I have taken the first step in this long and arduous journey of one thousand miles which I know will take some time. I am very much aware that I may not see the victory when it will be achieved, but I have no doubt in my mind that this is the right solution if Nigerians wants Nigeria to continue to exist as a country. I believe that change happens when good men give impetus to their selfless ideas. I am also very much aware that everything that now exists in our world first existed in the mind of a man or woman who sort avenues to give reality to his thoughts, dreams or visions. Nigerians for Change has existed in my mind for more than four years. I have discussed it with some people. In the period, some other people have started a website with the same name and I welcome them but they have not done what I envisaged Nigerians for change will achieve. Hence my continue attempt to give reality to this dream to do something about the social decay and political criminality that has become endemic in Nigeria and liberate our country from fear of violence and the rule of the unscruplous. I have come to the conclusion that I can do more than writing articles about the problems of Nigeria and now determined to take practical steps to contribute to the development, emancipation and liberation of Nigeria from criminal leadership that sees power as avenue for self-enrichment. Our once beautiful country, which Achebe gloriously described in this book ‘there was country’, has been destroyed by corruption, toxic ethnic nationalism and religious intolerance. We cannot continue to respond with cold indifference in the face of this disaster. Each of us must ask the question, if I find good excuse to nothing to bring change to Nigeria, who do I expect to do it? We also have to accept that with all our prayers, that God cannot work if there are no one ready to act for cahnge. God works with the willing.

No one will save Nigerian but Nigerians. No amount of visiting world capitals or writing abusive articles about the ills of corrupt Nigerian leaders will take the place of organising and convincing Nigeria that change happens when good men are prepared to pay the price of change. A man whose house is on fire and refuses to look for water, may not salvage anything from the house. My response to Achebe’s lament is optimism that there will be a country and that that country will learn from its mistakes to fulfil its potential. There will be a Nigeria where those who wish to prevail be violence will be contained and held accountable. There will be a Nigeria where the rule of law will reign supreme and leaders, police officers and soldiers will be under the rule of law. There will be Nigeria where police will conduct real investigations and bring criminals to justice. There will a Nigeria where corrupt police officers, politicians and civil servants will go to prison and not benefit from their crimes as is the case at the moment. There will be a better Nigeria where drivers will take driving tests before going on the road, and teachers will teach for joy of inculcating knowledge and not for money alone.

This is why I have registered Nigerians for change to give good Nigerians opportunity to come together and do some good to redeem Nigeria, and enthrone a true democratic culture where the people will truly determine who exercises power over them and hold those who have broken the law accountable. I am convinced that once ordinary Nigerians grasp the inalienable truth, that the politicians do not have a greater stake than them in the country and its resources, they will accept the recipe for change through participation which is the principle that underpins Nigerian for change. Nigerian have to be made to realise that those who are in power at the moment like things they way they are and will not work for the change that threaten the underseversed privilaged advantage they currently enjoy.

When one looks at the behaviour of Nigerian politicians, one sees a similarity with the behaviour of drug dealers. Their desperation and ruthlessness and their resort to violence, subterfuge and abuse of statutory institutions and positions are akin to the behaviour of drug dealers and criminals involved in organised crimes. Their use of kidnapping gangs and murder squad and abuse of paramilitary positions and powers will be brought to an end. The Nigerian military has all it takes to end the current unrest in the north, east and Niger delta and they will get the power and resources and training they need to make Nigeria safe again. Never again will they be sent to quell unrest and their hands tied behind their back. Those who take up arms against Nigeria and engage in acts of terror, kidnaping and killing of innocent citizens to advance their cause, will be offered a choice to join the political process and pursue their aims through civil means or face the full might of the state. The new Nigeria will not negotiate with terrorist or armed gangs who find reason to justify the use of terror to achieve their objectives. The new Nigeria will not offer amnesty where presecution and rule of law should take their normal course no matter who is involved or his relationship with the president.

The return on political offices in Nigeria is disproportionate and excessive. This will be addressed in the new Nigeria. No other country, rewards politicians at the expense of the development of the country as Nigeria is doing at the moment. This is not right and only people who reject the status quo will be minded to do all that is required to change it. Nigeria will once again have a choice to choose who and how they want to be governed The solution would be to review the remuneration and powers of politicians to bring it in line with what sincere people who want to serve the country will find adequate. Nigeria is committing political deliberate self-harm and will finally commit suicide, if the people do not rise up and demand change of the status quo. Unlike some people, I do not believe that Nigeria needs Rawlings' or Arab spring type of revolution. the revolution Nigeria needs is revolution of political participation and the taking of responsibility by the people to make their votes counts and claim their existing rights in oour imperfect cnstitution and this we can do without the need to shed innocent blood. Nigerians for change is one of the honest, peaceful and lawful ways to begin the Nigerian recovery journey and I urge you to commit to a better Nigeria by participation.

To be continued.

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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