By Tabia Princewill
Out with the old, in with the new. If only it were that simple. In the field of political science, various theories and methodologies exist to advise government, thought leaders and the private sector on strategic planning; that is, how to bring about change or modernisation in any organisation. The theory of change, in particular, promotes social change by defining long term goals mapped backwards in order to identify the pre-existing conditions which enable the said change.
Indeed, unlike the haphazard way in which many African states have conducted their affairs, there are often clear, somewhat predictable pathways to development, as each desired outcome is chronologically and causally linked to a prior circumstance.
Change is thus the result of a plan (preferably a transparent one) where power dynamics are properly managed. Change must be inclusive and rewarding for its many accomplices and contributors for it to function. Hence, the conundrum the APC is currently facing: Is the idea or the prospect of change rewarding to the average politician? Which politicians should be rewarded for their contributions?
How many of said politicians could withstand the scrutiny of their actions and moral values, which the promise of change entails? What is therefore the APC’s “change model” and how will it motivate its members to disavow the actions and attitudes that are now unfortunately part of our popular and political culture? What specific interventions will bring about change and most of all, how will these plans affect the citizenry? Nigerians are being kept in suspense as the change train gathers momentum. Let us also look at something perhaps a little less joyous, but necessary: why change fails. When expectations are not met, obviously, change has failed. But more specifically, when happenings within a culture evolve into norms, conventions and traditions society no longer questions and “changemakers” are unable to assert a new rulebook because they placed little emphasis on the short term realities that must change in order to achieve long term goals, then, “transformation”, to use a now loathed word, fails.
So, let us ask, what must change in the short term in Nigeria for long-term changes to occur? An immediate change should perhaps be the reduction of the cost of governance, in order for government funds to be used more wisely. Let us not be afraid of reassessing and repealing even some ill-thought out constitutional requirements: the practice of government featuring one minister from every state of the federation has not brought more development to the people, nor has it brought more peace to our country; right now, it is merely costing us money in payment of salaries, etc, which could be better spent elsewhere.
Of course, politicians who benefit from the situation will tell Nigerians, should Buhari propose to modify this aspect of our Constitution, that Buhari does not want to share power with all ethnic groups or some other such nonsense. It is thus up to the President’s media team to come up with solid communication plans to explain his reforms and ideas in order to convincingly sell them to Nigerians. Moreover, it is up to us, the citizenry to be open-minded, reasonable and judicious in our discourse: research, fact-find, get as much information as you can, explain things to those who do not understand, refuse to be used as a tool for politicking and discord, by the enemies of the state, the members of the old order, parading themselves even in this new dispensation as “changed”. Such people still walk among us.
For too long our leaders have taken advantage of the Nigerian inability to reason intelligently and dispassionately, our collective amnesia and unwillingness to not make excuses for wrong-doing because we hope to benefit from the ever widening loopholes of the system. Education is thus a long-term panacea to all of our country’s woes as many of our citizens might have paper qualifications but have not benefitted from the critical thinking and analysis taken for granted in other climes.
Every ministry, department and agency at the state and federal level, every local government, should be forced to come up with a sequence of events, planned activities that are expected to lead to certain outcomes and unveil said plans to the public, enabling us to track whether these outcomes actually occur.
This might seem like common sense but having experienced the workings of some government ministries, I can say that it isn’t. As a country we have become accustomed to looking to the heavens for miracles, whereas nothing we have put into place on ground could realistically support or allow the wonders we expect from everything and everyone except ourselves.
On paper, Nigeria might have embraced modern sciences and rationality but in practice much of our thinking is antiquated and has not allowed for the depersonalisation of relations: can we look at a man or woman as competent or incompetent, honest or dishonest, rather than from “my village”, “my place” or Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa? Can we see people for what they are rather than speak of whom they know or are related to? The Nigerian experience is still predicted by destructive structures: life in the free, modern society we hope to become should be predicated on individualisation and risk, which shape life chances. Defining who we are, or who we hope to be is a collective risk we must be willing to take.
So, government can change, we have proven this but can the social order that nurtures it, change too? We must free ourselves from the restrictive social prism and networks of ethnicity and religion; we must be individuals with our own ideas and values, and not just amass unanalysed and undigested “take aways” from our pastor or our friends.Rather we take the risk of finding greatness within ourselves than jeopardise a prodigious future lost to the tyranny of insignificance, which we defeated by electing a new president.
One could say she “broke the internet” during the inauguration. In fact, she continues to fascinate and enthral Nigerians. But rather than focus on her pleasing exterior, I would rather we concern ourselves with what the “wife of the president” (she prefers to be called this) will do now.
The Office of the First Lady in the United Statesis actually constitutionally provided for, unlike its Nigerian illegitimate, debased equivalent. It oversees a council on women and girls where an assistant to the President on domestic policy and an assistant to the First Lady on special projects (often the same person) play a key role. Indeed, the First Lady assists the President, not by designing random, unfeasible or unquantifiable projects that are avenues for corruption and abuse of office, but by setting real targets to improve the lives of women and families.
How do women and girls fit into our national domestic policy and what can be done to alleviate their suffering? Mrs Buhari’s desire to work on fielding off child marriage is a welcome development as it results in a cycle of poverty from which families often don’t escape. Finally, a first lady who is both apparently sincere and understands the issues.
Nigeria is no place for kids
Chimamanda Adichie spoke of “likeability”, which is very much an issue for women in our society where girls are taught not to rock the boat and to conform at all times. Challenging the status quo is not an option for most women in this country who are, more often than not, expected to suffer in silence.
Wasila Umar, a 14-year-old girl from Kano, forced into marriage, desperate to escape, eager for the opportunities education provides, felt forced to take drastic action: she poisoned her husband and inadvertently, the friends who shared a meal with him.
She spent a year in prison (what sort of prison, with what conditions of confinement?) and one can only imagine the horrors she has been exposed to. Mrs Buhari, we await your input specifically on children’s law and policy.