My Layman's View

May 7, 2010

Who will save our country? And what could save Nigeria?

By Adisa Adeleye
THE two questions appear identical if the readers set their minds on expectation of immediate revival of a failing state.  Some have accused me of being a coward for not declaring outright Nigeria as a failed state.  I am not an unduly optimistic analyst by nature since I believe that pessimism could be self_defeating in examining the various problems of the country.

It is axiomatic to assert that all is not well with our country since independence in 1960.  After eleven years of democratic experience, there has been partial power eclipse (erratic electricity supply); major roads remain dangerous (numerous pot_holes and gullies) and unsafe; water to drink has remained a perpetual problem, especially in all our urban cities; filth and diseases grip our towns as a result of congestion; mass rural drift to towns because of under development; life becomes unsafe everywhere because of inadequacy and lapses of security provisions; medical care is utterly inadequate in all states and food production has become so inadequate as to provoke hunger and anger.

The image of deep poverty is so sharp and unmistakenly provocative.  Nigerian citizens are aware of their problems.  It is not that various governments _ federal, state and local governments are not familiar with their various disgraceful environments.  They are aware but unfortunately, many are insensitive to the damaging environmental degradation and plaintive cries of the people.

As Edo Governor (Oshiomole) recently casually remarked caustically, ‘Our leaders do not sleep, not because they want to improve the lot of the people, but because of the problem of sharing within the political class‘, Thus as usual, politics is money and money in politics is to be shared.  Let us forget at the moment the idea of politics as an agent of political and economic development.

Who is going to save the country from political chasm and economic penury? Put crudely, WHO IS OUR NEXT PRESIDENT? From 1960, Nigeria had been blessed with array of assorted leaders from civilian to military.  Gen Gowon, after preventing the country from breaking after the Civil War was overthrown by Gen Murtala Mohammed who was overthrown and murdered.

Gen. Obasanjo handed over to Shagari, a civilian, who was toppled by Gen. Buhari, who was himself dethroned by wily Gen. Babangida, who ‘stepped aside‘ in 1993 after conducting a Presidential election adjudged to be free and fair.  But the dictator annulled that election.

Gen.  Babangida handed over power in a curious manner to a civilian, Chief Ernest Shonekan, whom Gen. Abacha found little difficulty in removing with his makeshift government.  Before he could turn himself into a civilian elected President, death dealt a cruel blow,  and under what was described as ‘divine intervention‘, Gen. Abdulsalam came in and handed the nation a 1999 Constitution.

Under the 1999 Constitution, Gen. Obasanjo appeared as a civilian President (with all his military traits intact).  After a stint of eight years and a failed attempt to prolong his stay in power, he ‘midwifed‘ the regime of Alhaji Musa Yar‘Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.  The first two years of Yar‘Adua‘s government was characterized by an economic policy of Go_Slow_Go and political uncertainty.

Before the President became ill, unannounced, the period witnessed religious and political disturbances which resulted in killing and maiming of innocent people.  The notable dark spot in the record of the present government is the report of genocide in Jos and environs as a result of ethnic and religious differences.  The frequencies and the dastard nature of the operations (inspite of tight security by army and police) put into jeopardy the concept of a united Nigeria where every citizen is safe under Law and Order.

Now that President Yar‘Adua is reported sick since November 2009 and after the Legislature has promoted Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the Acting President appears to be traversing the slippery valley of politics carefully.  He has on one hand the delicate weight of Nigerian load and on the other hand, the divisive weight of spoilt and pampered children of his party, PDP.

Nigerians will be watching how he would maintain the delicate balance between the contending loads, howbeit of different weights.  Observers believe that he would be able to see clearly what looks like a trap set for him, in what appears as a distraction which bothers on levity.

However, some names have appeared on the horizon for the post of WHO WILL SAVE NIGERIA.  The military adventurers of the past, the visible being, Gen Ibrahim Babangida; the former military President (what a misnomer) are appearing.

He has been talking of late on the ideals of Democracy and the ills of the country.  Gen. Babangida is a tactician and a dangerous political customer.  He ruled the country (through a military coup) for eight years with iron hand, and initiated an economic programme (SAP), which nearly ‘sapped‘ the nation to death.

Devaluation of the Naira, unemployment and rising cost of locally manufactured goods (because of higher cost of inputs) followed almost immediately.  The ruinous effects are with us till today in industrial stagnation, high exchange rate and terrible bank lending rates.

Gen. Babangida‘s media supporters are drumming into our thick ears very relevant policies on true federalism, devolution of power, creation of state Police, resource control and elimination of federal character principle, and other illuminating ideas based on his practical experience.  Though these are enlightened policies, but they are more relevant for a Constitutional review body and or a Sovereign National Conference.

It is within his power to influence a National Discourse on how Nigerians should live together peacefully in a united and prosperous country.  The same advice is directed towards Gen. Buhari before he announces his own candidacy.  If IBB wants to know what he has stolen, he should be told in clear language that by staging a military coup and becoming a ‘President‘ without being elected, he has stolen the democratic rights of the people.

Some observers believe that soldiers should not be in government or overthrow any civilian administration, even if found inefficient.  Personally, I agree with Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher what he said about soldiers; _ ‘courage is their main virtue.

They must be keen to see, swift to catch, and strong to destroy their enemy‘, and not topple politicians.
Political analysts are watching the amusing trails of Abubakar Atiku – a former Vice President of Nigeria (under the ruling PDP), a former Presidential Candidate of Action Congress (AC) and now, a new convert in the PDP camp.  Time will tell whether or not Atiku is a political ‘chameleon‘ in his rush towards the Presidency.

However, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan said, ‘I have taken the challenge of an adequate power supply, peace and rapid development of the Niger Delta, food security as well as overall security of all Nigerians and promoting credible elections in the concluding months.‘

Is Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, (from a minority tribe whose State seats on black gold) the Messiah we are looking for?  He has said what could save Nigeria; but forgot to include the stoppage of mad and senseless importation of gasoline, being undertaken by the government.