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The makings of a failed state

By Tony Momoh

My point of departure today is the Niger State Governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu. He  is  at present the Chairman of the 19-member Northern Governors’ Forum.  I am relieved at his concern for the falling status of our country in the direction of failed states.

I am relieved because I did not think that any of our leaders manning the apex of any of the three tiers of government would be tolerant of views that we cannot sustain what we are doing with our own version of democracy, which is accessing office to share the wealth of the nation.  Even if you do not want to steal, the structure forces you to preside over stealing.

At the forum in Kaduna on March 25, Governor Aliyu identified failure of our state as directly linked with the failure of our leaders in meeting their responsibilities to the people.  But he was hammering at the effects of failure, not their causes.

After 50 years of independence, he noted, the country is still witnessing all sorts of carnage, especially the ones in Plateau State when other nations with the same history of independence had become manufacturers of aeroplanes and automobiles.  You have to go outside to appreciate the issues being raised about a failed state, he said, adding:   “Outside there, many people see Nigeria as a failed State.

The argument that came up was that if in 2010, we are still killing one another, if in 2010, we cannot guarantee electricity, if in 2010, we cannot guarantee water, if our roads are still bad, our economy virtually comatose, many people talk of these variables as the elements of a failed State.

We must not allow that to happen… Time has come for us to act more reasonably and stop politicising every issue and abandoning our responsibility to the people that we have sworn to serve. We must work hard to regain the confidence and trust of the people…”

Why I say Governor Aliyu is looking at effects rather than causes is that we are frightened to deal with the causes so that the fruiting of the seeds sown through inaction may be avoided.  In other words, we are afraid to look at problems in the face so that we are not challenged by the solutions staring at us.

Why, because every problem is a coin with a head and a tail, the problem being the tail and the solution the head, or vice versa.  Take, for instance,  the Senate of the National Assembly and the amendments which they say constitute the making of history.  More important than the amendments seems to me to be the coming to life of the electronic recorder of votes   than the more than three dozen changes they said they made to our Constitution.

And what do people see in what the Senate did?  They see a self-serving group  manipulating the document they swore to defend to meet their group greed.  They see a group of people who do not want the minimum qualification for election to be more than the equivalent of a school certificate.

They see people who do not want anyone outside the executive to appoint the supervisor of elections in which the executive himself is a candidate; and they see a desperate and an unpatriotic and insensitive group of  people who would delete a provision from the existing constitution that would bar someone with a criminal record from contesting elections!

So, with nothing worthy of celebration to present to the people in proof that the Constitution is being amended after so much of tax-payers’ money had been sunk into a fruitless exercise, they look at the electronic scoreboard and announce its operational status as an achievement! The embarrassment this caused me personally is that the press was happy at what the Senate claimed was a first!

I told you I was at Benin to speak at a Trade Union Congress conference.  I dedicated the lecture to Adams Oshiomhole whose tenure as Governor of Edo State, I said, “is a challenge to labour to prove the pudding of governance in the eating of welfare and security.”  Adams Oshiomhole who, politics apart, is making waves in road construction, health care and provision of water in all communities of the state, was there with Governor Mimiko of Ondo State and Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State.

Eight other states were represented, and the Oba Akenzua cultural centre venue of the event was full of managers of the working class.  The cover page of the booklet containing the lecture shows the map of Nigeria perching on the foot of the “5” in the 50 years whose issues and challenges I was to identify.  It is a picture of a country shrinking, less in size than in reputation.

I refused to look at the effects of the problems we have caused with the choice of road and how it is structured to be the albatross that it has grown to be through application.  In the lecture, I looked at our country, the constitution that regulates its affairs, its unworkability in catering for the welfare and security of the people and how we must decongest the political place.

The so-called mad man of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, who asked for our splitting up on a Muslim North and a Christian South divide has since adjusted his solution.  He says we should go our separate ways in six countries, like Yugoslavia, based  on ethnicity.  Someone may adjust their view of him as a mad man by comparing him to Bananebi, if you are from my part of the country where Bananebi exhibited his madness by ambushing women and sucking their breasts until they bled!

But we have problems we refuse to address, and name-calling cannot be the solution. The groupings that Gaddafi is now advocating should be split into countries are not ready or willing to be so split up, at least not at this stage when the situation can be redeemed if we are serious.

But no one can deny that they want to live together in a loose federation so that the groups become federating units.  In my lecture, I said, “There is no doubt… that the present arrangement is not healthy for us.  It cannot work in any federation. Every stakeholder in the Nigerian Enterprise has a responsibility to be part of ensuring that Nigeria sustains a system of government that assures the best for the citizenry.  We cannot eat the future in the present by imposing structures we are unable to sustain.

And for 50 years, we have been doing just that, even pushing to borrow to meet present commitments! The way out of this problem is restructuring the political arrangement to make it more manageable and less demanding on our resources.” (See pages 29 and 30 of Nigeria @ 50 – Issues and Challenges, Pumark Educational Publishers).   What the Senate is proposing is a bloody waste of time and resources.


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