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They prefer to milk the cow

By Tony Momoh
THE Senate has held public hearings on proposals for amending the constitution and what I told you last week on what will work to grow Nigeria was loudly absent in the hearings. People discussed creation of states when we should collapse the states. 

People were asking for electoral reforms, which is okay, but a more pressing need is reform of what now makes us abuse the ballot. We need a heavy reduction in cost of governance so that the traders that litter government would seek other areas to make blood money from. But no one was interested in less government at less cost.

Some zones even prefer further strengthening of the position of governor, a position I told you we can do without and save at least 78 per cent of the cost of paying godfathers for choosing for compensation, those who lost nominations for elections. Instead of dismantling the protective wall built around those I call the 74 monarchs – the president, the vice president, the 36 governors and their 36 deputies – some were asking for more protection for them so that they are not in any way disturbed during the period they hold office.

No one seems to be interested in the clear  provision that the protection of the 74 is when they perform the functions of the office, which, you will agree, is neither corruption nor money laundering. The good news, however, is that the discussions were held in the six geo-political zones, the future federating units of a restructured Nigeria. Read that again. And I ask, who will bell the cat?

In spite of the fact that we have more than 140 million Nigerians in 97,000 communities, grouped into more than 350 nationalities, we are not interested in how we can access and secure a healthy relationship between all these whose tribes and tongues differ but would want to stand in brotherhood. The contributors continue to refuse to raise their gazes above seeing Nigeria through the ethnic prism.

Yes, that is natural, but it is this natural situation that must be captured in the arrangement to stand together in brotherhood. That standing, that living together, must not be on the terms of one little group or one large group. It must be underlined by the need to integrate as a people who cooperate, not dominate, in the management of resources  in the area of their habitation.

This country is rich, endowed by God, and as I have said, God has never endowed in vain. He endows for the benefit of people, not the greed of the managers of the endowments. But what we have, I will continue to warn, is not being managed for the benefit of the people.

It is this shortsightedness the Americans saw when they predicted that we would be a failed state. At our independence we were one of three countries the world believed would make it.  The others were India and Brazil. So for almost 50 years, the world has watched India and Brazil, and us. We have been left behind, and today, all roads lead to India for cure of ailments, from kidney transplants to fixing broken bones.

The structures we have would win for us a gold medal if having them was all that was needed to judge them. America does not even have them – huge cars and convoys for public officers and their dependants; full time pay for all cadres of public officers for no jobs done; billions sunk into buying aircraft for use of heads of the organs of government.

And in all these, we have no water to drink, no roads to travel on, no electricity to power industries; even, no fuel for vehicles that will take families to their homes during this season they have always been looking forward to.

Most embarrassing is that there is no assurance of  security in the homes they have loved to visit every Christmas season. These are signs of a failed state and a failed people. No one is asking questions. Everyone wants part of the action!

In this type of tragic situation, you look straight in the face of the problem and proffer solutions. In world history, people opt for that level of freedom they are ready for, ripe for. We are not ready for full time funding of bloated structures that take up more than half of our resources. And we want to reform electoral laws, amend the constitution to provide for more avenues to drain the treasury. O God. We are sick, and we need surgery, constitutional surgery. That was why I proposed what I believe we are ripe for. I did not tell you what we would gain.

They are in the paper I gave at the Newswatch colloquium.  But the massive savings that will come from decongesting the political space  will be there to grow the country before 2014.   Corruption will be reduced;  rigging elections will not pay anyone; and so the present politics of business will be lifted to the pedestal of selfless  service.

The last shot on this matter is what the Americans are still saying about us being a failed state, which even now stares us more fully in the face because of priorities that have reduced us to cringing beggars and borrowers.

I quote from my booklet on Will Nigeria Collapse, which was the text of a lecture I gave in May, 2006 to mark 50 years of the founding of St Finbarr’s College, Lagos. Hear me: “The difference Nigeria will make in world affairs is ordained and that is why it will not break up, why it will not be a failed state.

How it will come about belongs on High. Those who have an opportunity in leadership positions today to smoothen the re-engineering for high spiritual recognitions that will ground it, should not miss the present opportunity to do so.”

The National Political Reform Conference of President Obasanjo, I thought and pleaded, should be seen as more important than we had taken it. But those who called it had other things in mind. They wanted to remain in office. The plan collapsed and they threw away the baby with the bathwater. What the Senate is doing now is to address issues that will extend the areas of reaping the fruits of corruption.

For, that will be what happens when you refuse to address the great question of decongesting the political space. Instead of doing just that, we are even being asked to create more states to extend the opportunity of milking the national cow.

We must train the Nigerian of today to make the missionary that will work for the Nigeria of tomorrow. That outing will be more smooth when we decongest the political space, reduce the expensive structures, make politics less paying, zero in on the welfare and security of the citizens and seriously avoid those things that divert our attention to fighting effects of causes we deliberately or inadvertently accommodated.

I said then, “What the Americans are telling us are the visible signs that can destroy a vision and a mission. But while we are trying to destroy a vision through what we think we can gain today from temporary advantages, missions do get achieved in spite of the greed, in spite of the shortsightedness of those called to prepare the ground.

And now that we know that Nigeria does not just have a future but a mission, can we not make the fulfillment a happy and joyful one by deliberately working to smoothen the path being so clearly shown to us by the quality of people being incarnated as Nigerians? You think there is accident in this wonderful creation of God? Yes, the Americans are right in their material calculations.

No, in the cosmic ordering, they are far off the mark. Time shall tell.” But the fact is that the damage our structure is doing to us is making time to run out on us. In spite of this, missions of God never fail, even if they are delayed by the inanities of men. So who will bell the cat?


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