By Tony Momoh
The way we are preparing to celebrate 50 years of our independence, I want to be proved wrong that we are not seriously hoping that October 1, 2010 would be a destination, not a bus stop. A destination is the end of a journey.
You pack your bag and baggage and disembark from the train that brought you to the station you are at. You settle down to live a life you may not have prepared for because your upbringing infused into you the lessons of old that you should learn to live from day to day.
So, for 50 years, you, I, we have done just that, lived from day to day without a thought for the morrow. But that morrow does come, as living from day to day even implies, because the day will break and the sun will rise and set; and the night will come and the sun rising the next day will announce the dawn of another day.
From experience therefore, we have come a long way from October 1, 1960 and will be 50 on October 1, 2010, less that three weeks from today; and that experience of living one day after another teaches us that in living from day to day, there are issues to settle so that the day after today will be more comfortable to live in.
So, I repeat my question whether in preparing to mark 50 years of our independence, we should not see that date as a bus stop rather than a destination. A bus stop is a bus stop.
It is where passengers in a bus come down and others enter, and the journey of life continues. Each passenger knows that the journey is not a picnic, that it is for a purpose. He is one in a group, one that knows what the group must do and his role in the group. The earth is peopled by countries that should see, that do see, life as a journey with bus stations on the route to a destination.
No date on the calendar can ever be the destination, only a bus stop, only a train station. But why do we here in Nigeria behave as if every date on the calendar is a destination, not one for looking at what we should do, how we have done it and how better we can do it?
For the better part of the 50 years of our independence, we have treated each day as the last we have on earth, not the beginning; as the destination, not a bus stop.
If it is true that when there is life there is hope, should we not look back these 50 years and give ourselves low marks; and so, decide to work hard enough to make the next 50 years a song of praise to hard work, order, discipline and selfless service to our countrymen, to humanity!
I agree that we have really not been standing still since October 1, 1960. But, to me, progress should not be recorded on how our population fares in the comity of nations, how endowed we are with natural resources; how many miles of road we have and how many hospitals and how many schools et al, but what value we have added to what we have.
In 50 years, we have devalued the human person in our care rather than invest heavily as other people do, in building the human capital that would have managed other endowments God grants. We have abused the opportunities to serve by turning them into trading posts for personal gain.
Economically, we achieved the high profile of consumers of products of other lands outside of here. Our lands, more fertile than any other in the tropics, remain lush bushes we are more interested in turning into venues where we congregate to pray for what God has already given.
We want manna to fall from heaven when we are not confronted by hostile desert conditions where a people had to live for 40 years in search of an abode. We have habitation for 140 million people, land that can grow the food they need and more than enough to feed the whole of Africa, people that are able-bodied that need only the training to be useful in the communities where thy live.
For 50 years, we slumbered from day to day, living on others, not for them, and this is not what God wants. We should programme, if the celebrations will be meaningful, for what happens after October 1, 2010. Are we ready to do that, and is that part of what we have for the future?
An unbiased assessment of the 50 years that have passed by shows that we would have been better off if we had structured the polity differently, as a forum for service rather than a trading post.
We have said this many times before. Therefore we should use the opportunity of being fools at 50 to start anew, to show that even fools can be trained to be wise since what made them foolish was the knowledge they lacked that would have made them wise. Having read part of the Electoral Act 2008, I have come to the conclusion that it is not a document that can sustain a presidential form of government.
It is more appropriate for a parliamentary system. If you doubt it, look at the provisions for resolving election disputes. You will discover that failure to make hay during the period stipulated will give victory to the one who had had the opportunity to rig the election. But if we move back to our constituencies and meet in parliament for the party with the majority to form the government, we would have killed a thousand birds with one stone.
We would have smaller constituencies to contend with in collecting materials to establish any case made to ground electoral malpractices. Was the whole country the constituency of the Prime Minister in the first republic? If we had the present governors as members of the state houses of assembly, there would not be these avoidable battles of ego nourishment in the market places.
I believe we should make the campaign issue for the next election one of whether we want a presidential or parliamentary system. The assignment of the next parliament would then be to focus a change in the Constitution to provide for a referendum for Nigerians to take decisions on major issues.
The most major issue would be whether in exercise of their sovereignty (sec 14 of the Constitution says sovereignty belongs to the people), they would not like to decide whether, in the light of the unbearable expenses, they would like to opt for a less expensive system of growing their democracy.
The first two years after the 2011 elections should be devoted to preparations for and holding the referendum. The elections of 2015 (that is one year after we would have been 100 years old as a country) would therefore start a new slate for Nigeria’s experiencing as not only an integrated space but one that would create opportunities for an integrated people.
That would then be the beginning of another 100 years which hopefully would see the country grow into the world power that it is meant to be, a power anchored on spiritual recognitions.
The presidential option is too sophisticated, expensive, and dictatorial for discipline and accountability to work where taking is more glamorised than giving.