BRITAIN that once ruled Nigeria is not a one party state. America whose presidential system, Nigerians system is based, is not a one party state.
The large number of parties said to have registered not withstanding, the general feeling is Nigeria is fast becoming a one party state. One would have thought that with the AC/ACN, ANPP and UPGA winning some seats at both the state and national levels in the 2007 elections, four whole years after they would have become so organised and strong that the thought of Nigeria becoming a one party state would not at all be contemplated/ entertained anywhere in the country.
It is highly incomprehensible that Nigeria with a population of 150 million people – rich with highly intelligent men and women – would be in a position where her citizens would have no choice but to accept one ideology, that of the PDP.
Freedom demands that there be alternate/different ideologies from which the people at election would choose which ideology would best promote their interest.
The challenge is therefore for politicians to do their best for the country, especially in the provision of the environment which would enable Nigerians to exercise their right of choice of ideology. The existence of more than one party definitely gives room for healthy competition among or between the parties in the provision of good governance. Therefore 50 years of independence celebration should also have as its goal the provision of the party system that would best serve the interest of the generality of Nigerians.
The second issue has to do with the great powers being wielded by some individuals- this makes a mockery of the equality of the rights of the individual enshrined in the constitution, it also constitutes a threat to the practice of true democracy.
Particularly noticeable is that of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the President and in reality the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in the two immediate past administrations. He actually makes himself a colossus striding across the length and breadth of the country, dictating the tune with the 150 million Nigerians minus one giving the impression that they are comfortable with the arrangement of dancing to his tune. One must concede that the Chief is a great strategist.
This quality he very ably displayed when it came to the election of his successor in 2007. It was clear that the emergence of Mallam Umaru Musa Yar Adua of blessed memory as President and that of Dr Goodluck Jonathan first as Vice President and even as President was all the handiwork of the Chief. Yet the Chief was part of the administration of the late General Murtala Mohammed that took the hitherto strange measure of purging the Civil Service, a measure that not only brought untold suffering to millions of Nigerians but also succeeded in destroying all that was good in the Nigerian Civil Service.
With security of tenure thrown over board, corruption crept in to the Civil Service and with time became part and parcel of the service. In his eight years as President, inspite of the huge amount spent on the all important factor that affects the economy and life of every individual in this country – energy remained unattainable, darkness and all the ills that go with darkness prevailed and are still prevailing.
Needless to mention the sorry state of education. Although the then President established his own university, the Bell University, the few secondary schools owned and run by the Federal Government – the Federal Government Colleges were in ruin. His government, but for public out cry, would have sold them to private individuals in the name of Public Private Partnership (PPP). The Junior Secondary Schools were phased out in the schools – an uncalled-for measure.
To show this was not well thought out and through, so soon after the Junior Secondary Schools are being returned to the Federal Government institutions once more. As far as roads were concerned the Chief and his first Minister of Works, Chief Anthony Anenih will one day, either here or here after, give an account of the billions of naira voted for road construction and rehabilitation.
If Lagos – Benin Road is unmotorable and his first Minister of Works is from Edo State, it is only to be expected that roads generally in Nigeria during the eight years tenure of the Chief would be nothing but death traps and they were. No doubt the Chief succeeded in some areas of governance.
However, this cannot be said of the areas that affect the everyday life of the generality of Nigerians. Since suffering did not abate, indeed poverty was on the increase under the Chief as Head of Government for two consecutive administrations which were near becoming three, if not life long, Nigerians have a duty to call a halt to the unlimited powers being exercised by the Chief and all his likes.
There is no justifiable reason for their enjoying such enormous powers. Fifty years of rule by the political class and the military should constitute more than enough learning period for us Nigerians. We should know what is good for us and how our country should be governed. Henceforth, Nigerians should therefore work for equality of rights for all for an egalitarian society where government is by the people and for the people – a true democracy.
Our 50 years anniversary celebration should coincide with Nigerians bidding goodbye to the existing situation whereby power is in the hands of a few over-bearing individuals. Power should now be made to rest with the people.
The third issue has to do with zoning which has become the major pre-occupation of the ruling party. Basically zoning places emphasis on where the next President should come from – should the President come from the North where the party is said to have zoned it to till 2015 or the South where the incumbent who became President by divine intervention comes from?
The way the issue is being handled unfortunately is doing nothing but emphasising what divides us instead of placing emphasis on what should keep us together. Thus, one of the lasting legacies if not the only lasting one the British left us with is now under threat.
It is true that the British Colonial Administration could have taken steps to ensure that no one part of the country has obvious advantage over the other by dealing squarely with the problem of minorities. This the administration did not resolve. Nevertheless they kept us together, that is why we can talk of Nigeria celebrating 50 years of independence.
It is good we remain one, our size and population make us talk of Nigeria as the giant of Africa, though we are giant only in the two areas mentioned and in no other sphere.
At 50 the point should be made abundantly clear that emphasis in considering who becomes number one citizen of Nigeria is on ability to perform, competence and character trait and certainly not where the person comes from.
It is because this position on leadership has not be hammered on, nor has it been shouted out loud and clear that Nigeria is for only leaders that would meet the aspiration of the people that one like General Ibrahim Babangida under whose administration our economic woes started and who brazenly annulled the only free and fair election Nigeria has ever had can talk of coming back to contest for the post of president in Nigeria.
Similarly too, the apathy on the part of the average Nigerian has also given room for politicians to give the impression that incumbency and place of origin are the consideration that should/would give the presidency ticket to President Goodluck Jonathan. One is yet to see what areas his months as Head of Government has impacted positively on the lives of Nigerians generally.
Are our roads in a better shape now? Certainly not. Has the energy problem been solved to an appreciable level? Again the answer is no. What about the problem of security? Kidnapping has not in the least abated. That one comes from the deprived area where the country’s oil resources come from need not be and should not be an important consideration for choosing who becomes President of the country, the fact that it is for this reason America is seen to be interested in the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan not withstanding.
After all America is only mainly interested in the protection of her investment in the oil producing areas; there is nothing altruistic in the position America is said to be adopting. Moreover, it is obvious that the militants have not struggled in vain, the people in the oil producing areas can no longer be taken for granted; henceforth, no responsible government can afford to ignore the hen that produces the egg – the golden egg – for the nation.
It is also a thing of joy that coinciding with the problem of the militancy being positively addressed, this started under the late President Yar Adua’s administration, an indigene of one of the oil producing states by the grace of God has now emerged the President of the country. The Good Lord has caused to happen what hitherto no one imagined could be a reality in the foreseeable future.
The ascendancy of President Jonathan at this time can be interpreted as God’s way of compensating the oil producing states, especially the Ijaws, for decades of neglect of the area by the government of the Federation. However, for President Jonathan to continue in that position in the next administration, it is expected that his election would be based on the ability to perform he convincingly demonstrates during the period prior to election day.
The Good Lord in His mercy has granted the President a wonderful opportunity, he, the President, has to prove that he is up to the challenges of the position God has entrusted to him. The late General Murtala Mohammed was head of this nation for only six months. He is today celebrated as a hero.
True enough his administration did no little damage to the Civil Service – a nation without a strong, efficient, corruption free Civil Service cannot but head for disaster – also true too is the fact that some discipline was immediately infused into the public service as all were convinced that a no-nonsense man had assumed leadership position in the country.
President Jonathan has more than six months in his present dispensation to demonstrate in no unmistakable term the stuff he is made of. The period available for him to impact positively on the life of Nigerians is even now being extended by INEC asking for a date later than January for the 2011 elections. Moreover, the President has the benefit of a good education.
Let the President put all these to play. The President is showing he had learnt a lot from Chief Obasanjo and his many travels. It is, however, in the interest of the President to keep a balance in everything, putting in place measures that would actually impact on the lives of his fellow Nigerians certainly deserve to be accorded great priority.
Such measures are what would ensure votes are cast for him, this though is assuming that the 2011 elections would be free and fair. For the purpose of emphasis, the point is repeated that this time round the criteria for winning election to the exalted position are ability, capability, integrity and nothing more.
The three issues highlighted, among many others, are areas to which Nigerians are being called upon to get right this time round. The general indifference on the part of the average Nigerian, coupled with sycophancy and love of worldly pleasures on the part of Nigerians at large have so far given Nigerians leaders who have only succeeded in making the generality of Nigerians to groan. Enough of our suffering, of our groaning.
It can only be enough if we endeavour to get it right at least in these three areas highlighted this time round. It is certainly high time we got it right – 50 whole years of independence. Haba!
Since we all – leaders and led alike – have one way or the other contributed to the present mess Nigeria is in, we all now collectively have to work at getting the country out of the woods by getting it right now. It is in the light of getting it right that attention is once more drawn to the word of God in 2nd Chronicles chapter 7 verse 14 which says:
“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Nigeria needs healing; we all should play our part to make Nigeria a land flowing with milk and honey the Good Lord intends it to be.
Therefore we should repent of our neglect in the past and ensure we get it right from now on. The current drift in Nigeria towards a one party state needs be halted now; over bearing individuals who see themselves as calling the shot all the time be brought to be in line with what obtains in a truly democratic state and election of all those to be in authority right from local government level to the post of number one citizen of the country be based not or ethnic, sectional or any other consideration but on merit, that is, ability to perform and integrity.
Our theme of celebration, therefore, is enough of backward and retrogressive ideas and practices, the thrust now is getting it right – high time we did. God help us all.
Mrs.Ejueyitchie-Oroye, a commentator on national issues, writes from Lagos.