Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has made little progress in eliminating poverty which has now afflicted over 70% of its population. As world’s sixth largest exporter and the 11th largest producer of crude oil, the nation’s economy, remains overwhelming undiversified with earnings from oil and gas making over 90% of exports and 80% of revenues. Yet the country’s oil wealth has woefully failed to generate sustainable economic growth, better public services or improved living conditions for the majority of the people. Why?
The negativities in public administration that contagiously obscure meaningful socio-economic developments are directly traceable to bad leadership of the past. The art of leading according to S.L.A Marshall in Men Against Fire, ‘is the art of dealing with humanity, of working diligently on behalf of men, of being sympathetic with them but equally, of insisting that they make a square facing toward their own problems”.
The depressing economic condition in Nigeria which has been characterized by leadership incompetence, corruption, stereotyping, high level sycophancy, putting square pegs in round holes, poor public financial management, poor institutional development, inept infrastructural facilities, god -fatherism, caged and corrupted judiciary, compromised security agencies, poor democratic credentials of most of the elected or selected public office holders is inimical to the growth and development of the country. The worst hit by the present economic quagmire is the Northern Region. Why?
Northern Nigeria is progressively becoming depressingly impotent in all indices of measurement except that of population and landmass. The Northern masses in most areas of far north are denied education, a basic, fundamental tool for living even in ancient times. Northern political elite who control (for the most part since independence) regional/state/local government affairs, fail to educate their people in western literacy. Instead, chose the simpler opinion of leaving them either stark illiterate, ignorant or expose them only to Islamic and Arabic literacy. Instead of being champions of modernity, development and progress are today regressing. They were denied to facing challenges of science, technology, commerce, telecommunications and internet but resort to escapism and blame logic.
Northern Economic Summit, Northern Education Summit, Northern Political Summit, Chamber of Commerce and several others. Yet, majority of northerners have nothing to show for it. The hitherto flourishing textile industries in Kano and Kaduna are shadows of what they used to be due to draconian government policies by the northern elite.
Decades of clinging to power has produced nothing but chronic poverty, unemployment, insurgency, political thuggery, ethno-religious crises, cattle rustling, de-industrialization and menace of almajiris and able-bodied beggars. Educationally, the north is far behind. Public schools have become a caricature of modern school system in the north. The powerful elite have achieved their aim of killing and burying education and agriculture in the north. A situation where a JSS II student can neither read a simple comprehension nor write a single sentence in English language is to say the least ludicrous. They have left the masses to their own fate. Private schools are beyond the pockets of the down-trodden who, are grappling with the rigours of meeting basic needs.
As for political participation, the northern masses have become increasingly disenchanted due to arbitrariness and deception from the powerful elite. Democracy thrives only where there is freedom of expression and the right of choice, it would be inimical to the political process to continue to impose candidates on the people.
The northern masses have been at the receiving end of elite’s machinations. The power resides with the elite and the masses have for long been turned into robots, remote-controlled by the whims and caprices of domineering elite. The masses have every cause to feel dejected and depressed. There is poverty at high velocity. The future looks less rosy, but the elite live a flamboyant life style with suspected stolen money.
The above situation which came about as a result of bad governance led to a situation where as the late Dr. Mahmud Tukur said: “the wider population though possessed of pristine wisdom – but perhaps due to its material poverty, is forced to be opportunistic; to expect immediate reward in monetary terms and instant gratification; is incapable of demanding for accountability, cannot stand up for its rights, is unable to resist abuse of office, corruption or oppression”.
Most of the violence we witness is the consequences of poverty, unemployment and frustration including hate preaches from day light religious preachers. Securing a viable polity – that is a Nigeria in which there is free movement of people, goods and services and a country in which residency and participation rights are guaranteed wherever one may choose to live is what is urgently needed. This connectivity is important and has to be appreciated by elites, which has the reputation of greed and selfishness.
The relatively smaller number of the elite, as a privilege group, is wont to using the enormous powers at their disposal to champion their narrow causes, at the expenses of the larger but less privilege groups. They drag by force or “favour” the lower classes in that selfish direction that finally produces disenchantment among the masses. The ordinary people are not really involved in the political activities. All along, it has been a game of the elite who only use the masses as tools in fixing up their political machinery; use them as cannon fodder when the push comes to the shove, and then, use money or muscle on them when the masses lose interest in a game that largely is none of their business.
The typical northern elite has forgotten or tends to forget that the responsibility for running the affairs of people has been vested in men not for the purpose of enforcing their own orders or imposing their own will on others, enslaving people, calling them to bow down their heads in submission, enabling them to construct spacious palaces by fleecing the weak and downtrodden; in short for the pursuit of their pleasure and self-glorification. Men who are at the helm of affairs should have a feeling that this is a burden laid on them to administer social justice.
Public office holders, who master the art of treasury looting, should bear in mind that such privileges will not endure. All wealth and resources belong, as a law to the society, and they must return to society willingly or by force of the law or better by jungle justice. Human society stands on justice and justice demands that resources be shared fairly among all members, where this is ignored, society is bound to disintegrate, resulting in the dispossession and routing of the privilege groups.
Why not we think of building a society in pursuit of an economically fuller prosperous life and which balances the material welfare with the spiritual values in which the state and the citizens acquire wealth through fair means without exploiting others or subjecting others to wrong and injustice, but by promoting the good of others from what is earned or accumulated? A Nigerian society in which citizens are brothers and friends, and are bound by bonds of affection, nationalism and patriotism; such that no one group-tribal or religious – shall antagonize any other; but each shall endeavour to understand, appreciate and support the other in a collective effort to enhance and protect the collective heritage of our country.
We need a new Nigeria in which equal opportunities of progress shall be enjoyed by everyone. A Nigeria where no individual or group shall suffer any disability that may in anyway impede the growth of his/her faculties or hamper the development of his/her personality. A society where a way shall be opened for all citizens to make as much progress as possible according to their individual in-born capacity and personal merits without prejudice to similar rights of other people.
Nigerians are ardently looking for a set of leaders who will build a society in which everyone is an equal participant; a society which cannot tolerate class divisions based on distinction of birth, tribe, religion and social position. In his opinion, Hon. Ahmed Idris Maje (representing Wase federal constituency of Plateau state said, “A society where all citizens shall enjoy equal status, the only criterion of superiority in the much needed new Nigeria is personal ability and character. That is, individuals shall be assessed and recognized on the basis of what they do and not who they are or where they hail from”.
By Sanusi Muhammad