AS our politicians continue to bicker, heating up the polity and dancing to the drum beats of the Boko Haram and other insurgents, it is right for the reasonable ones amongst us to have a critical review of the whole situation. No matter how far we have gone the whole wrong route, it is never too late to make a direct three-sixty degree turn, to the right course.
Our challenges are institutional and structural and until these are put in place, we will continue to rigmarole. The developed countries have mastered it and their democracies have continued to thrive. That is why a not too brilliant George Bush and Ronald Reagan did two full terms and a very intelligent Jimmy Carter could only manage one. That is the beauty and mystery of democracy, any body can rule as long as proper structures and institutions are in place.
What do I mean by institutions and structures? I mean established patterns, systems, laws, cultures and traditions that guide our behaviour. These acts as checks and balances to the excesses of man, in this case our present day politicians. If these structures are not put right, the way we are going, the country will implode.
What are these structures and institutions? Those that guide our existence as a people, our foundations and interactions. Since the military came into our body politics, the fabrics have been torn to shreds. It is time for those responsible for the formulation of policies to begin to make these corrections, from the local governments to the state and up to the federal level. It is a bold initiative that requires very courageous and principled men in the mould of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, retired Colonel Umar, Gamaliel Onosode, late Justice Oputa et al. They may be technocrats both in the public and private sectors or even politicians, the over all goal is to build a new, focussed nation. It is not going to be an easy task but it is achievable.
Let us start from our focus or vision for the country. Some notable Nigerians led by Allison Ayida – former super perm sec- in the seventies crafted these five objectives, aimed at establishing Nigeria as a truly great nation state; A united, strong and self-reliant nation, A great and dynamic economy, A just and egalitarian society, A land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens and A free and democratic society.
These are very achievable objectives but unfortunately, successive regimes have jettisoned the above for personal and ethnic interests. That is why the nation has become so polarised, every single person who has presided over the affairs of this country is guilty of this abuse, no exception.
That is to say; we have never had a truly selfless leader. An out of prison Olusegun Obasanjo was given the opportunity to make this correction, having been part of this policy paper all these while, but what happened? He flunked it and Jonathan has continued in his foot steps.
We will not make progress if our leaders do not redirect their interests and loyalty. If you favour your ethnic cleavages, you are rooting for a segregated Nigeria, but if you want a strong and vibrant Nigerian nation state, the leadership must be ready to take the bull by the horn by pursuing all the highlighted objectives with a real sense of fairness or equity amongst all ethnic groups in the country. That is the policy the Malaysians adopted in setting the foundation for their growing economy. It must be noted that the government ensured that the rights of all ethnic groups and citizens are protected, whether settlers ( the Chinese), the indigenes ( the real Malaysians) and indeed other groups. In Nigeria, if your business is not established in the cocoon of your ethnic region, your fate is in the hands of the Almighty God, as draconian laws of the host communities can easily run one out of business. Presently, there is no southerner that is safe, doing business in the north.
When we have brave, selfless and focussed leaders, structures can easily be built, beginning from our education sector. Everyone is busy building universities, no one is thinking about channelling the efforts to the true productive needs of the country. Without science and technology, a country’s productive capacity is stunted. What has happened to our various technical colleges, teacher training colleges and polytechnics? We have spent so much time rigmarolling, leaving the main issues behind. Without a proper educational foundation, we will continue to miss it. What is the impact of our private sectors on the educational systems. There should be a symbiotic relationship between our institutions and the private sectors, researches and faculties should be endowed by big corporations, that is how it is done, that is why the standard of such university as Harvards will never go down. Even in South Korea, their universities are becoming world class as a result of the support given by the private sectors. Our academicians must refocus their goals and objectives, find ways of attracting funds to their institutions. The government must go back to the foundation of teaching- the teaching institutions must be revamped and brought back to life.
When we produce credible people, from our educational factories, the society at large benefits, for example; a person who had gone through school and graduated the proper way, will most likely, not engage in cheating when he finds himself in position of trust. A situation where there is a preponderance of cheating amongst our students, is manifesting clearly in our political environment. Cheating is normal to them because they have grown up with it. Where a company will conduct interviews for two hundred applicants and not be able to get one person, calls for great concern.
Our structures must be re-defined; military, civil service, economy,governance, socio-cultural, religion- all of the gamuts. That way people we put in authority will not be able to cheat.
If we fail to address these issues correctly, the way we are going now, implosion awaits us, like we are witnessing in the north eastern part of the country.
Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.