By Dele Sobowale
“The rate of change in our time is so swift, that an individual of ordinary length of life, will be called on to face novel situations, which have no parallel in the past. The fixed person for the fixed duties, who in the old society was such a “God-send”, will in the future be a public danger.”—Alfred North Whitehead, 1861-1947.
“Those who make peaceful [change] impossible, will make violent [change] inevitable.” President John Kennedy, 1917-1963.
Kennedy’s statement, perhaps his most widely quoted observation, slightly amended, not to frighten people, was made to Latin American diplomats on March 12, 1962. It is a befitting reminder to those who are opposed to the idea of restructuring Nigeria today – including President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo.
If it needs repeating, I was a fanatical Buhari supporter from 2011 till recently. And, until a better leader emerges, Buhari, with all his faults (and they keep growing daily), still has my vote. However, when the issue is restructuring, he can forget about me for support. In fact, I can state categorically that restructuring is inevitable.
Just in case anybody thinks this is a Christian or Southern issue, let me remind readers what happened when Obasanjo as President once proclaimed that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable. I wrote an article pointing out to him that neither his father, whose birth date he does not know, nor mine who was born in 1890, was born a Nigerian. My grandfather who was born in 1828 was even far removed from any geographical expression (apologies to Awolowo) called Nigeria. If one bloody Englishman can gather my ancestors together and name them Nigerians, why can I not reject that name? After all, I was christened Jacob, I dropped it for Biola in 1960. Why can we not sit at a conference to determine what we want to be called?Why for God’s sake.
At any rate, restructuring is inevitable and the signs of a total breakdown of the existing structure are there for all to see. Only a liar would deny that the present federal structure of thirty-six (36) states and seven hundred and seventy-four (774) Local governments had long lost its usefulness and necessity. Even that structure was imposed on “captured” Nigerians by badly educated military Heads of State, HoS – starting with Gowon. A brief history is necessary at this point.
All the military HoS, leading armed robbers of the peoples sovereignty, except Buhari and Abubakar, had by fiat, and at the point of guns trained at us, forced us to accept state creation accomplished on basis that were never discussed with the people. Gowon took us from four regions to twelve states. Murtala/Obasanjo increased the number of states to nineteen. Babangida, the most destructive of them all, started by adding two – to make it twenty-one states. Then, in one fit of rage, jumped to thirty states. Abacha finished the demolition job by adding six more to take us to the present situation. Each time the state multiplication took place, the governors and other officials of the new states were allowed to earn the same salaries and other entitlements as the original states. So today, the governors of Osun and Oyo each take home the same amount the Oyo governor earned before the break-up. Anambra State had become Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi states in the hands of the military destroyers. Sokoto had given birth to Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara. In the process, they created all the economically unviable states which had been dependent on crude oil revenue and which cannot now exist on their own as the price of crude had gone to the basement. Yet, there is no light at the end of the dark tunnel.
The states have collapsed as economic units and nothing in the near future will revive them. The Federal government, like a father dressed in rags, wanting to bail-out his equally destitute kids, cuts a sorry figure and will end up making things worse for all concerned. If Buhari’s military colleagues got us into this mess, why on earth can’t we get ourselves out of it without one of them standing in the way of the only meaningful change Nigeria needs today.
It is not only the states, created by those who did not love Nigeria, that are in dire straits. The Federal Government itself is in a big mess. All those talking about diversification forget that it requires peace and loads of money to achieve that. Peace has eluded us for some time and is not in sight. Money we certainly don’t have. We don’t even have the money that would be required to pay all the debt due for this year – with aggregate revenue only sixty per cent of what was budgeted by wishful thinkers in November/December last year. They were warned that the budget was over-ambitious. But, as usual they refused to listen. A Federal Government going begging is not the one to lead the way to diversification or anything else. Those truths point to a need to take another look at the fundamental structure of governance in Nigeria.
“Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, in the strife of truth and falsehood…” James Russell Lowell, 1819-1891. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 254)
This is not a matter of being for or against Buhari. I like Buhari and this is stated not because I am afraid of anything. After what Abacha did to me, nobody scares me anymore. But, I like the truth more. As the states collapse one by one, restructuring will become inevitable. Buhari is standing in front of a moving train. “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo, 1802-1885.
MANAGING STREET TRADING IN NIGERIA –2
“The intention is not to take food away from anybody’s mouth. It is to make sure that a megacity like Lagos aiming to be a smart city cannot allow the level of degeneration that we have on our highways”.
Mr Steve Ayorinde, Lagos State Commissioner for Information.
“The government seems to be fighting on the part of the oppressors..the government does not look at the issue of reckless driving anymore; the government has shifted its attention away from drivers who do not obey traffic rules.” Mr Debo Adeniran, of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders.
The two statements were lifted from a national newspaper, illustrate how many different perspectives there are on street trading and what should be done about it. Steve and Debo could just as easily have been Commissioner and “Concerned Citizen” from any state of Nigeria. Obviously, the fact that there are different views on the matter would indicate to governors wanting to enact and enforce such laws to pause before proceeding. The chances are they will legislate in vain. Just as obvious is the need for mediators to emerge in every state to work out compromises which might work better.
Ayorinde and Adeniran would appear to take two extreme positions which on the surface are totally irreconcilable. But, on second thoughts, they are not. One thing those holding the two positions can agree upon is the fact that total ban and unlimited street trading are not only unworkable, they are not mutually exclusive. Compromises can be reached which meet the needs of each city, town and even village or community. Those compromises must be found and nurtured for the benefit of the people of Nigeria which remains a nation of street traders.
Since government is in the best position to act, let me point out a flaw in the statement made by my former “pen-pusher” colleague, Steve Ayorinde. Stating that government has no intention to take food from peoples’ mouth is meaningless when it introduces a law which does precisely that to millions of people living in the state. Good intentions are never enough. In fact, one of the oldest sayings has warned us that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” If care is not taken we might be on the road to hell on this issue.
And to Adeniran, a question will point to the fault in his position which seems to divert from the issue involved. Is it because there are no reckless drivers, hold-ups and accidents on the world’s best known major highways that we don’t have street trading on them? The answer is a clear NO!. Street traders don’t emerge on American British, French and even South African highways because those societies have cautioned their traders and they observe limits. Unlimited street trading is inimical to every society. It must be checked by all of us.
The rest of us can help by refusing, as start, to buy anything offered on the major highways in our cities.