NIGERIA TO SUCCEED OR TO FAIL IS OUR CUP OF TEA
During the electioneering campaign of General Muhammadu Buhari, I carefully monitored his style of campaign utterances and politicking. When he took over, I was keen in observing how he was to start piloting the affairs of a battered country. Nigeria was a country on the verge of total collapse. Crooks, rogues and rabble rousers had put the country in the reverse gear and shamelessly celebrated bogus ‘achievements’. Transformation Agenda was a mockery of good governance. The agenda only transformed criminals in the corridors of power to super-rich vandals now threatening national progress with filthy lucre.
I took time to brush up on my readings and understanding of Development – not so much on developmental stories of particular countries, but mostly on the broad issues of development: why some countries succeed and others, although blessed, fail. I read, re-read, and looked up reviews and commentaries and concluded that in most of the literature I read, authored by renowned scholars and respected columnists of various newspapers, etc, each offered in profound thoughts on the question that is most important to Nigeria of today – the question whether Nigerians are prepared to make the required sacrifices for a successful Nigeria or a failed Nigeria. Altogether, the summary of my studies and thoughts of the authors is that Nigerians can make their country succeed brilliantly and it has all it takes to make the country fail disastrously as resisted in the chased away Jonathan administration adjudged as inept, sadistic and clueless.
Therefore, the choice is entirely in our hands to make or mar. PDP chose disaster for Nigeria for 16 years while APC chose a change from the old order as publicly declared by Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, during one of his visits to commiserate with internally displaced persons (IDPs) at their camps spread across the country.
Needless to say, various factors beyond human power are important – factors such as geographical advantages or hardships, ethnicity, ethnic culture and history, availability or non-availability of natural resources, a country’s ethnic/cultural homogeneity or diversity, religious homogeneity or diversity, etc. But, in the final analysis, the ultimate determinant of whether a country shall succeed or not is the choice of its people, the institutions they set up, and the integrity or otherwise of the operation of those institutions.
For instance, being located in a desert, swampy or riverine area makes some development initiatives difficult most times but not impossible. The state of Israel is located in the desert but from good leadership and followership, it developed to one of the most agriculturally and technologically productive countries in the world. Having two or more different nationalities (each with its own homeland) in a country makes stability and development difficult but not impossible. Switzerland has less than four nationalities, but it is one of the most stable and richest in the world. Being richly endowed with human and natural resources is good development but it does not guarantee physical development unless with good leadership. Nigeria is one of the richest countries in human and natural resources in the world but it has been relentlessly retarding, with the masses of its people becoming poorer and poorer each second without a clear direction. They key – the secret – in each case is the choices made by the people and their loyalty to those choices, and the institutions they give their country. Some past state governors in Nigeria are alleged to be richer than their states. Some present state governors are wolves in sheep skin. Some criminally believe their victories at the elections is a shortest route to quick riches vide stealing of public funds and other clever ways of over-invoicing, contract variations and award of lucrative contracts to friends, fronts and relations with the connivance of sycophantic and hypocritical civil servants.
In short, Nigeria started declining since the unforgiveable days of the Jonathan era and becoming less and less stable, with over 80 percent of its people living in abject poverty, starvation and misery because of wrong choices, wrong institutions and denying integrity to the institutions. Of course, the biggest of the wrong institutions is the federal government. Essentially, because Nigeria has hundreds of ethnic nationalities and the best choice is federal structure. Since some of the nationalities are large and some small, the best arrangement is to make each of the large nationalities a state and, with caution and respect, the small contiguous nationalities also joined to form reasonable sustainable states. While doing that, Nigeria ought to have borne in mind the danger of having too many states and too many state governments – and thereby putting too heavy a load on administrative costs. (India, with a population of over one billion people, carefully carved itself into 28 states, and transferred most of the burden of development to the state governments).
Unfortunately, it suited the selfish interests of our most influential policy makers to carve Nigeria into smaller and smaller states so as to transfer more powers, resources and assets to federal centre. That wrong policy paved the way for Nigeria’s horrific inefficiency, ineptitude and corruption at the centre, turned the states into impotent entities as governors now turned the local governments impotent forever, both at the mercy of the federal centre, destroyed most development energy at the state and local government levels, and plunged the country into deeper and deeper poverty.
The old regional responsibilities and assets (like universities, export crops management, some crucial highways, control over schools and schools curriculum, etc) that were transferred to the federal centre mostly floundered, declined and perished. For instance, assets of the former regional government of Northern Nigeria such as Bank of the North, Northern Nigeria Marketing Board, Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria (BCNN), New Nigerian Newspapers, etc., could not be managed by successive northern state governments on creation. The investments have perished to eternity.
Those in control of the federal centre arrogated to themselves the prerogative of deciding who rules the states and the states decide who rules the local governments; and election rigging by federal and state agencies (INEC, SIEC, Police, DSS, Military and Civil Defence) became part of the political culture, ostensibly to hoist unpopular politicians for hidden agenda. Federal agencies like the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as the state and local governments, all lost integrity. Leadership whims, caprices, and impunity ruled over the country. Nigerians ceased having a country worth the name. Most observers began to say that Nigeria was a failed state that somehow kept standing and breathing – a failed state that could have since crumbled if not for the timely election of Muhammadu Buhari, few state governors and other agents of change in 2015 to rescue.
In their electioneering campaign for election, Buhari and Osinbajo promised Nigerians CHANGE, and Nigerians trusted them with most of their votes. In spite of all the difficulties confronting the beginning of their presidency, most Nigerians still trust them and are hopeful to see real change. Understandably, they started by focusing attention on the war against corruption. That was a good step because most Nigerians strongly desire to see corruption wiped out from the land with lightning speed.
Speaker Dogara has said, “Part of the change Nigerians will witness is total war against bribery and corruption. APC is determined to restore the lost glory of Nigeria no matter whose ox may be gored. We abandoned PDP for the safety of Nigeria and, with support, we shall succeed and smile”.
Buhari’s former stint at ruling Nigeria in 1983 – 1985, and his general reputation and body language, fuels the anti-corruption expectations. But, hopefully, Buhari understands that to crush corruption fully and abidingly in Nigeria that was institutionalised for decades, Nigerians must reorder and revamp the institutional roots and fabrics of their country. The wrongly chosen, distorted and corrupted institutions are the root of the country’s palaver and some are still in the system. If we redraw, restructure, and straighten up our institutions, not only will corruption perish, the whole country will also begin to rise again.
It needs to be emphasized that even if Nigerians decisively crush corruption, Nigeria can still continue to decline – and can decline until it crumbles if the leadership is poor. Whether Nigeria revives and survives, or whether it continues to decline until it perishes depend on the choices made in the next couple of years under Buhari’s leadership. That means Buhari can lead in ways that continue the decline or the success. For instance, he is at liberty to choose to revive and reinforce the ambition of a selected few, reinforce the accumulation of power, assets and resource-control in the hands of his federal government, and even make the states more in number and weaker in stature – for instance, adopt the insane proposal that the number of states be jumped to 54!
PMB could, out of ‘loyalty’ to those senseless agitators, tutored in the culture of election manipulation and savagery, support the senselessness if he so wishes. He is at liberty for now to do all or any of those and more – and pave the path to Nigeria’s ultimate collapse and disappearance from the world map. But he could guide and lead Nigerians in totally different ways, and give Nigeria a new lease of life. He could champion a movement for rational federation, and for the devolution of powers to the federating units. He could thereby revive the productive and developmental energies of various sections of Nigeria – and make the country a land of development, progress and hope again. To build or kill Nigeria, it is the choice of Nigerians.
A few months ago, the President wondered aloud why it is his lot to come and lead Nigeria at this tough and rough time – when the treasury was virtually empty; when the main source of national revenue (crude oil) is fearfully weakening in the world; when Nigeria’s economy looks as if it is heading for total collapse, etc. I believe Nigeria is fortunate to have a disciplined leader like Buhari at the helm at this critical time – a man who has the courage to turn the country onto the path that most other leaders seriously opposed but which Nigeria desperately needs to heal. Will Buhari then do the things that Nigeria really needs to survive and head to prosper? Yes, he can but with total support and unalloyed loyalty of Nigerians. He urgently needs the promised support of Senator Bukola Saraki (the Senate president) and Speaker Dogara. His Lordship, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Her Lordship, the President of the Federal Court of Appeal, other ministers in the temple of justice, ICPC Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal chairman and Ibrahim Magu of the EFCC need not to be told to join the wagon of support against gangsters, tricksters, fraudsters and treasury thieves and their clearing agents for Buhari to succeed. EFCC and ICPC should re-strategize to fish out other criminals still making noise and roaming the streets with shoulders high. They are clumsy, stink of corruption and are saboteurs to national development. They deserve to join their ancestors wherever they may be for Nigeria to bounce back to glory.