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Understanding Nigeria and its people

By Adisa Adeleye

NIGERIA, which has been described as a mere “geographical expression”, is also to many people, a funny place where “anything goes”.

Nigerians are seen by foreigners as happy people (always smiling) in the face of suffering and poverty.  It may be conveniently inferred that Nigerians will not react to any act of provocation unless pushed to the wall; even at that point they may wish to jump the wall, if possible.

It is observed that no week has passed without any notable event unfolding.  The other week, it was the drama of the Chairman of the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) talking tough against the party’s governors and also the unexpected statements of a former Minister in PDP administration, Dr Oby Ezekwesili accusing the rulers after Obasanjo of squandering over $67 billion left in the coffers in 2007.

As usual, such accusation would not go unchallenged by the functionaries of the present government of President Goodluck Jonathan.  Both the Information Minister Maku and the Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe have reacted by listing special projects that have been undertaken by President Jonathan since his assumption of office.  It looks as if the accuser and the defender have laboured in vain to convince many Nigerians about the needs for financial accountability in governance.

Map of Nigeria
Map of Nigeria

The main political problem of the country since 1999 (year of democracy), has been the enthronement of a single political party which is big but lacks the ability to ensure a regime of peace and prosperity.  In the absence of a strong opposition party, the PDP has been able to dominate the life of the country in all its many facets.  Its lack of cohesion and progressive political and economic policies have bred insecurity, insurrection and deepening poverty.  The choice of ministers by the President from all the States (including states which his party did not win) could not encourage smooth working relationship between the Centre as the States controlled by the opposition.

The political uncertainties could be attributed to be ‘winners take all‘ attitude of the present ruling party, thus preventing the services of some eminently qualified Nigerians.   The present scenario depicts the reign of a cabal for its survival and that of its members to the exclusion of others.  It looks as if its survival does not depend on the qualities of its leaders or the effectiveness of its performance in government, but mainly on its seemingly superb organization and wealth of its members derived from political patronages.

Some have suggested that what the country needs is effective opposition through the merging of all opposition parties.  Some governors of non-PDP States have stated their intentions of their parties to form an effective opposition in order to oust the PDP from power in 2015 elections.

Some doubt the success of the merging exercise by the strange bed-fellows; if the wresting of power from the ruling party is the main motive.

It should be realized that the deficient nature of the country’s structure may not allow the defeat of the ruling party without bloodshed.  The truth is that the old problems of ethnic and religious considerations have resurfaced and being encouraged. The option now is whether to confront the PDP or work with it for the development of the country.

In the midst of the prevalent political confusion, the intervention of the former Military President Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) comes to mind.  Speaking as an elder Statesman and not as a political activist, he cautioned against the break-up of the country in 2015.  The former military dictator agreed that “but not all these mistakes were made out of callousness or bad faith or malice”.

The former dictator said, “Firstly, we must identify the problems that need to be addressed, secondly, we must address these problems honestly.  Thirdly, we must identify the most appropriate mechanism for addressing these issues”.

From experience, former President Babangida noted, “right policies made at times have been wrongly implemented.  Temporary solutions have often been turned into permanent policies, even though the problems they were designed to address have long been solved”.

Honestly, the Babangida message is that Nigerians should sit down and re-work their future by eliminating those policies that could destabilize the nation.    After affirming his faith in the genuine ‘Federal Character‘ concept, former President Babangida advised that, “we need to arrive at a good consensus that will move the nation forward rather than a panel-beating system that satisfies no one except the temporary holders of power”.

The fervent prayer is that the present leadership would profit by the words of wisdom of the General.  The country would certainly profit by guidance from other rulers who would act as elder statesmen, but not as political activists.

Many countries which attained independence with Nigeria in the 1960s have been able to surpass Nigeria in economic prosperity through effective and strong leaders.  These leaders have been able to apply the principle of common sense economics and sensible politics to move their countries from poverty to prosperity.  To those leaders, change was the only permanent thing.

What is the situation in Nigeria today? According to the Secretary to the Federal Government, Anyim Pius Anyim, the leadership will not interfere with anything, will not interfere with what you are doing, will not even challenge what you want to do.  Those working with him, he doesn’t manipulate, he doesn’t control, just run your office”. According to Anyim, “I wouldn’t be as soft, as humble, and as tolerant as he is in power”.  What a nation?

A poser for Dr Oby Ezekwesili
What could have happened if the amount of $22 billion left in Excess Crude Account (ECA) in 2007 had been spent on re-fixing the existing refineries? (Which needed about N3 billion then) or build new ones.

Surely, such an amount of money would not have vanished into the thin air.


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