he general attitude of Nigerian leaders to those who oppose their corruption and bad leadership has been to ignore them, claim that they oppose them out of envy, dismiss them as simply misguided or hire an assassin to dispose of them. I have received a fair share of mails full of insults, and subtle threats and equally ones that made my day. One of the reasons why I chose to write about Nigeria is that my limited knowledge of Nigeria history tells me that Nigeria is worse than it was before the 1966 coup in all indicies of governance.
I am an ordinary Nigerian who believes that Nigerians deserve better and that our leaders can do better if the right mechanism is set in place to check their greed, ethnic and religious predjudices and impunity. I hope Nigerians would pay attention to some of the things many like me are saying, instead of reverting to the irrational beliefes that Nigerians in diaspora are the problem as some of them have erronously concluded. Many of us are not motivated by personal profit but by love for Nigeria. many of us live in well governed countries and can see clearly what can be done to make Nigeria better and would really like to help the leaders make Nigeria a great country. Nigeria is heading towards a disaster. No body comes out of a hole by continuing to dig and Nigeria cannot solve her problems by continuing in the mind set amd practices that caused them in the first place. The rate of murder in Nigeria, including of members of security forces is reaching the rate in countries like Columbia, Mexico, Iraq and Afghanistan. The endemicity and pervasiveness of corruption in Nigeria has reached epidemic proportion and the extent of abuse of statutory power is unprecedented in her history. Nigeria has a level of lawlessness that is akin to a state of anarchy.
Events continue to suggest that indeed, the government of Nigeria has very little or no value for the lives of the ordinary Nigeria citizens and puts very little value on the life of the average Nigerian. If not, how can a government alive to its constitutional duties and sensitive to feelings and views of the citizens, allow an airline whose culpability in an accident that cost many innocent and precious lives to restart business when the investigation into the cause of the crash has not been completed. This is the height of contempt for the people, a show of insensitivity and arrogance of power that should have no place in any true democracy. We know that power can corrupt but this only happens to those who are seduced and deceived by it. Nigerian government cannot continue to put the greed and commercial interest of a few people over and above the sensitivities, wishes and aspirations of the people. and expect the respect and confidence of the people in its ability to govern and provide the leadership the country needs. Nigeria still claims to be a democracy and the government is elected to act in the best interest of the people. It is therefore unacceptable for the government to ignore the views and feelings of the people. Such action by the government will only alienate it from the people and further worsen the state of trust between the people and the government.
At the moment President Goodluck Jonathan does not seem to be providing the leadership that will take Nigeria out of this crisis. He has so far not demonstrated decisiveness in decision making and has shown no evidence that he has a vision for Nigeria that can inspire hope. He is surrounded by a bunch of carrier politicians who like him, seem to have gone into politics for the wrong reasons and motives. Their singular aim appears to be to get rich through politics. This may explain their attitude to corruption and all the other ills that underpinee the Nigeria problems. Everythhing the government attempts to do, seem to be contaminated by corruption and ethnic and religious prejudices. This is perhaps what explaind the apparent lack of will by the president to bring corrupt politicians to justice and close the loopholes that enable politicians steal a lot of money from the treasury. In his watch, not a single corrupt politician has been successfully prosecuted in Nigeria, and the rot has continued. In fact, politicians who know all about corruption are opening saying that the state of probity in Nigeria is the worst they have seen. There is no indication that the present administration is prepared to inspire a culture of accountability and honesty in the country and this is very sad.
If President Jonathan is honest and sincere about fighting corruption, he should have appointed into his cabinet Nigerians who are honest, radical and dissociated in their thinking and have a vision of the better Nigeria where the rule of law, justice, equality and probity reigns supreme. He would have appointed Nigerians with the character and values that the government wants to inspire in the people. He would not have filled his cabinet with Shell and World Bank representatives who would only enable his government to act in the best interest of multinational companies. If not, why would the finance minister be working so hard to get Nigeria into debt when she worked harder during Obasanjo’s time to get the debt paid? What happened to the reasons why she encouraged the government to settle Nigeria’s foreign debts with money the country would have invested in infrastructure? Why is it that it was bad for Nigeria to owe during Obasanjo’s time and right for Nigeria to borrow now?
Jonathan cannot achieve the great promise which his election holds for Nigeria, if he continues to put the interest of PDP, ex-military leaders, traditional leaders and multi-national companies over and above the interest of Nigerians. Unless he redefines the aims and objectives of his government and refocuses on making life better for the ordinary Nigerians by addressing the injustices and inequalities in the system, the recent gruesome execution of members of the police force in Delta state would become a common feature of life in Nigeria, and organised crimes will strengthen their hold on the country. It is very surprising that in a country with endemicity of corruption which exists in Nigeria, that the government has not made the establishment of an effective organised and serious fraud Agency a priority. Why would an honest government not make the control of corruption a priority in a country like Nigeria?
I raise this concern because, this is exactly the way Mexico and Columbia descended into anarchy and organise crime took deep root in them. Unless the government acts now and in a decisive manner, the hold organised criminal gangs and secterianism have on Nigeria will strengthen. A country where a governor can steal 250 million Dollars and he was not brought to justice cannot claim to be anything but a criminal’s paradise. A country where ex-governors, Legislators and Ministers with serious allegations of corruption and impropriety hanging over their heads are fated and honoured by all and sundry, including universities, cannot claim to arbour corruption. A country where a serving Attorney general and minister for Justice can be murdered in cold blood and the perpetrators of the crime allowed to walk the corridors of power, cannot claim to have a future. I suppose it is time for Nigerians to look into the elements in our culture and world view that make us relaxed about corruption and evils, and find reason to honour criminality in various guises; with the view to doing something about them
For instance, at the last meeting of the president with his party executives, he was reported to have said. ‘Don’t scold me like a child’, this is a statement of a man who puts the interest of his party and those who are in a position to scold him over and above the interests of the people who elected him into the office he occupies. It seems that the Nigerian president is a hostage of his party and the cabals that have brought Nigeria to her knees. President Jonathan seems to be caught between the people who he should serve and the cables who he must defer to. This call for a review of what the relationship between an executive president and his party should be in Nigeria. More so, when the behaviour of the party and the way it has conducted its affairs would suggest that they do not act in the overall interest of the country. The president was not elected to serve the interest of PDP, rather he was elected to do for Nigerians what PDP promised during the election and this is what he is not doing.
In a real democracy, the party puts the interest of the people and country over and above its selfish interests. It then goes to the people to ask for their votes in order to do for the people what they promised is in their manifestoes are in the best interest of the country. The party then uses democratic and fair means to select party members who have the vision, ability, experience and necessary motivation and enthusiasm to transform the country for better through the party policies, and present them for election. Once elected into power, the party uses the organ of the state, the civil service, and its political appointees to carry out the work of transforming the country. The opposition then scrutinise its actions and warn about it so that when things go wrong or the plan proves to be a failure, the people would know who knew what he was talking about and can make a different choice at the next election. In this way, democracy would be a competition between parties made up of individuals who believe they know what is best for the people and country, and elections opportunity for the people to choose the party they believe is best positioned and prepared to make life better for them. This is what it should be and why democracy is said to be better that tyranny. It offers the people the best way to get rid of inept and corrupt leaders and replace them with honest and patriotic leaders who have the interest of the people and country at heart.
This is not the case in Nigeria today. Many of the existing political parties are not run in ways and manners that would enable those who will change Nigeria to emerge through them. They are simply an association of people who see politics as business, and have the singular aim to gain political power to achieve resource control. Very few of the people in politics in Nigeria today are interested in nation building, strengthening of democracy, development of transparency in government, eradication of corruption, universal education and health care, achieving unity and entrenchment of democratic and civil values and the rule of law in Nigeria. They behave more like members of a fraternity or mafia than as patriots who want to make their country a better place to live, bring up children, retire, visited by tourist, produce products, or simply live one’s life as one pleases without molestation from anybody. What we have in Nigeria is an ethnic and religious struggle for power fought on the most of the primitive characteristics that divide people and it is a recipie for disaster, genocide and civil war. No country can have a future when its leaders are deaf to the cries of those who suffer injustices like the one suffered by the people of Bakassi and Igbos in north Nigeria and develope. No country can have peace when it makes millionares out of people like Goodluck Jonathgan, Babangida, Obasanjo, David Mark, etc for the only reason that they had the privilage of occupying political positions. Ours is a ship in the high sea without a map, with a captain and crew who know very little about ships and sea and the storm is gathering. How can the people expect such a crew to take them home?
Nigerian, politics is full of people whose singular aim is to gain power through politics to get rich and impose themselves on others and subjugate those who point out the error of their ways. A people consumed by self, pride and greed. No country ruled by such men will ever emancipate. This is because their world view do not include values that ensure equality of opportunities, accountability, respect for the rule of law and justice as fairness. Their overridding preoccupation in life are selfish and secterian interests. They have little regard for noble values, and see those who are interested in it as enemies and trouble makers. Their's is a world where money and power means everything and they are prepared to do anything to gain them. They kill and steal and at the same time claim to be very religious. They are psychopaths, men and women with personality disorder who feel no guilt for doing things which are morally wrong and feel nothing for those who suffer the consequencies of their actions. They claim to be democrats only as long as they win the elections and exercise unaccountable power. What they have made of Nigeria speaks for itself. They have a perverse, self-centred and sectarian approach to life and politics which have only succeeded in corrupting the polity, creating extremism, worsening the gap between the rich and the poor, creating kill and go police force, making Nigerian democracy the most expensive, most corrupt and most inefficient and ineffective in the world, and creating a criminal's paradise akin to a jungle where the strong and rich survive and the weak and poor die. This is the legacy of the distinguished Nigerians who the government honour yearly.
What Nigeria leaders and politicians have bequeathed the future generations are, the most inefficient and corrupt police force, one of the most degenerate criminal justice systems in the world, a country divided along religious and ethnic lines where merit and justice mean nothing and the people are made to see their rights as privileged allowed them by the politicians. Every Nigeria should read the judgement of the London Court on Ibori so that they can understand the mentality of many of those who make or interpret the laws , or excise executive powers on their behalf.
The problem of Nigeria is more than the problem of leadership it is a problem of values, ethnicity, cultures, traditions and religious beliefs One would have expected that in such a country, leadership education and training, and nation building would form very important part of the education curriculum. Unfortunately, successive Nigerian governments have paid little or no attention to finding time tested solution to these problems. The fact is that Nigerians of all ethnic and religious groups are quiet happy to continue to live together as one ‘happy family’ with the right leadership. The average Nigerian just wants to be left alone to make some money to look after members of his family and educate his children. The idea that disintegration of Nigeria into its component ethnic nations will change anything for the part of Nigeria that are suffering today, if the same leaders from those area who have represented them in Nigeria remain leaders in the new country, is to say the least, delusional. The part of Nigeria that will do better than they are doing in Nigeria today, will be the same region that is doing well today through honest leadership by men of conscience who have a vision for their people and have utmost respect for justice as fairness, rule of law and probity. This is the way it is, and why I continue to plead with Igbos and all other ethnic groups that are experiencing injustice and corrupt leadership within Nigeria , to first and foremost sort out their leadership and enthrone civil values, before thinking beyond Nigeria. Only enlightened leadership can appraise the problems of Nigeria dispersionately and come to a reasonable conclusion not contaminated by religious and ethnic prejudices and beliefs; which will give the people a future. Without this, Nigeria is doomed no matter what anybody says, whoever occupies the position of defence Minister and national security Adviser, and what they are prepared to do with Boko Haram and or the Nigerian Army.
To use terrorism as excuse for sectarianism is dishonest and deceptive for the simple reason that self-determination has never been an appropriate response to terrorism. Terrorism is an attempt to prevail by intimidation through force and fear. It is a feature of primitivity. It does not usually lead to a better society. The right response in a country like Nigeria will be to address corruption, ensure justice for all, make the necessary social investments to mediate poverty by making life changing education available to all and implement a determined and decisive, firm and fair military response to terrorism which respects the rule of law and fundamental human rights. This is one of the ways to deal with insurgency or terrorism. Anything that does not include these, would be furthering the aims of the terrorists. Nigeria cannot develope when politicians are free to steal, the police kill at will and falsify evidence and ordinary people cannot get justice. Nigerian cannot develope when criminals shoot police and police shoot the people they are supposed to protect. Britain has over thirty years’ experience of fighting terrorism in Northern Ireland and has contained or defeated it by doing some of the things I said above. Nigeria must look closely at the way and manner Britain has attempted to solve its own ethnic and secterian problems to see what it can learn. Nigeria is not the only country in the world with people of different ethnicity and religion and must learn from what has worked in other countries. This is the only way to defeat an insurgency like Boko Haram, reduce crimes and create jobs. There are differences between an insurgency against an occupying power, one motivated by religious and ethnic prejudices in a multi-ethnicl country like Nigeria, and one provoked by deep sense of injustice and attempt to solve it by self-determination the others motivated by a mixture of religious expansionist and supremacist ideologies, and ethnic nationalism. To succeed a country must have clarity in this area.
Therefore, the call by Prof Soyinka to leaders of south-south Nigeria to take direct action should be carefully examined to determine what would be the possible or probable reaction of the federal government to what it would rightly consider a threat to the cooperate interest and existence of Nigeria. One of the problems with Nigerian political activists would seem to be lack of deep, dispassionate and critical analysis of their strategy and actions before executing them. This may be the reason why they have achieved very little all these years and in spite of their intelligence, resources available at their disposal and the good will of the people; they could not stop the the rot in Nigeria. They often ignore the psychological aspect of struggle which would enable activities understand the personality and mind set of the people they oppose and modify their tactics to overcome them. At the moment in Nigeria, the result of any violent revolution would be loss of many lives and destruction of existing infrastructures. The same people who have borne the consequences of decades of misrule and corruption will be the ones who would pay the ultimate price. I am against the use of violence in any form to find a solution to the nigeria problem except in the case of a problem like Boko Haram or any other circumstance where a people or group has declared war against Nigeria. What Nigeria is ready for, is change through democratic means and this requires the unity of opposition, harmonisation of aims, objectives and ideologies. The opposition needs to educate and mobilise the people to take advantage of the existing imperfect democratic structures to bring about they change they need and only an opposition that can rise above corruption, parochial ethnic and religious interests and prejudices; and focus on civil and nobles values that respects individual liberty and autonomy can achieve this.
The world would respond favourably to a peaceful and constructive opposition in Nigeria against a rigged election or change in laws that make prosecution of corrupt politicians impossible. Therefore instead of encouraging regions to act in unilateral manners, people like Soyinka should be advising on strategic ways to collapse the current corrupt setup in the least disruptive manner. First Nigerian opposition must unite. Without unity of the opposition, PDP will continue in power and the rot will continue.Police will continue to kill innocent citizens and claim thay they were killed by armed robbers and politicians will continue to steal million and live happily ever after. Progressive elements from the east, west south and north must unite under a political organisation founded on civil values, rule of law, equality, tolerance and justice as fairness to give Nigeria a future. There are many honest democratic ways to get PDP out of power in 2015, if the opposition can unite, set apart their secterian interests and prejudices and pull their resources together. A united opposition on civil values that includes the following in its manifesto would be very attractive to the ordinary Nigerian I suppose:
- Universal education and health care for all Nigerians where money will not change hand at the point of need.
- Removal of immunity from prosecution for politicians indicted of corruption
- Aggressively addressing the problem of Boko Haram by carrot, and stick approach that ensures justice for the victims.
- Modernisation of police force and the criminal justice system that will leave them with the power to hold every citizen including politicians to account and also be held accountable for their actions.
- Modernisation of the civil service and returning it to meritocratic national civil service that serves the nation and not politicians.
- Reduction of the remuneration of all politicians by 50% to cut the cost of government and closing all the loopholes like security vote through which the politicians steal from the treasury.
- Commitment not to borrow money from IMF or world bank to finance recurrent expenditures
- Modernisation of the oil industry with the view to introduce transparency and fairness.
- Diversification of the economy by investment in Agriculture to revive groundnuts and soya beans production in the North, Cocoa in the West and Palm oil and kernel in the East.
- Establishment of a national research foundation to improve the study of science and technology and fund research into science and technology in Nigeria
- Ensure University autonomy, harmonisation of university education and raising of standard.
- Reduction of military spending and modernisation of the army The Nigerian army is a black hole in the Nigerian economy that needs to be reduced.
- Elimination of corruption in the customs and exercise to stimulate international trade.
- Aggressive job creation, by encouraging Nigerians enterprenual spirit. and becoming serious with the war on crime, by making EFCC and independent agency that does not take orders from the president.
- Restoration of Night life in Nigerian cities.
- Compulsory education, training or apprenticeship scheme for the Unemployed and necessary social investments to help the elderly, the disabled and others who cannot help themselves.
- Establishment of a national social security fund. All these can be funded if corruption is brought under control and better collection of rates and taxes implemented.
- Ensure that all official residences bought by those who occupied the post are returned to the government and then end this practice. There is no country in this world, where the speakers of the house of assembly, senators, head of police etc buy his official residence at ridiculuously low prices and only for the government to build any new house each time there is a new person in the posts. This corrupt practices must also be addressed if Nigeria will ever develop.
- Returning Nigeria to Regional Governments and scraping the state structure.
I hope Nigerian leaders will learn that the office does not make the man and that the only right way to use power is to use it for good and advance the justice as fairness. The Nigerian problem though formidable, is not insomuntable. An honest and sincere leadership can do a lot in four years. the choice is in our hands.