By Tabia Princewill
SO many mistakes have been made in Nigeria over the years and perhaps the greatest tragedy is not only our penchant for repeating said mistakes but for excusing them, praising or encouraging them for the self-serving purposes of a few.
A good number of our leaders are directly or indirectly responsible for enshrining the follies which have retarded our growth: the PDP for one, as a party, enthroned the zoning principle which prioritises ethnic arrangements over meritocracy, while claiming to share power between ethno-religious groups.
However, zoning has not enabled Nigeria’s development. Far from it. It has, in fact, ensured that electoral contests are not based on plans for our country’s progress but rather on elite power sharing arrangements which do not benefit the rest of society. Paradoxically, in Africa, ethnic groups hardly benefit from their kin being at the helm of affairs. Only a select few benefit, further impoverishing the majority which is brainwashed into supporting those same people who are responsible for keeping it in darkness.
In Nigeria, when the President is from the North, the Vice-President is from the South or vice-versa. Kaduna state, which has been under the control of the PDP during most of our democracy, has followed this arrangement although the governors have almost exclusively been Muslim.
The Christian deputy is often a figure-head, meant to show “fairness” and “sensitivity” to the representation of Christians. However, as previously stated “fairness” or regard for politicians and their sensibilities or desire for a job hardly ever translates to socio-economic development for the people.
Had it been so, each elected or appointed representative of any state or local government in Nigeria would have ensured development occurred in their states or villages.
In fact, if our politicians had been interested in developing the areas they come from, the politics of zoning and support based on common identities would have lessened and even become irrelevant, to be replaced by competition based on meritocratic principles, which ultimately yield more benefits for all.
This has never been the case in Nigeria or in Kaduna. The result is thus violence and insecurity in a nation where most states have seen no major infrastructural development since the 1970s, therefore, without jobs, education or the overall feelings of hope, growth and relative prosperity which secure peace, and the interference of greedy politicians who polarise their voters based on ethnicity and religion, violence was sure to ensue.
There is also an undiscussed component to violence and insecurity in Nigeria. Studies show that in Africa and the Middle East, areas where communities educate men to view masculinity as a de-facto reason or justification for power and social domination, a primitive view of masculinity, one where violence and testosterone fuelled aggression equates to power and respect (coupled with the pre-eminence of guns and freely available weapons) encourages the possibilities of violent conflict.
There is also evidence that one can trace the decline of the textile and automobile industries to the rise of violence in Kaduna, as men raised to find pride in their social roles as bread-winners and overall providers face unemployment. Furthermore, such large swaths of unemployed young men also share space with “settler” communities of other faiths and ethnic groups which are sometimes either better educated (and thus able to access more opportunities for social progress) or relatively successful traders.
A competition for scarce resources and opportunities in a state polarised by political views on gender, ethnicity and religion thus turns violent as often happens in the North and Middle-Belt, due to the selfishness and incompetence of leaders who rather than solve problems through adequate development for all, prefer to cling to power by pitting different groups against each other, practising the “divide and rule” tactics which have been typical of our politics since independence.
One day Nigeria will need to have an honest conversation about the North and its socio-economic development which must be void of sentiment. In the UAE, Sharia is not incompatible with modernity, progress and development. Dubai has film villages which produce employment and project a positive image.
Yet, some clerics in Northern Nigeria seem to favour a vision of religion which promotes the North as a monolith, freezing progress and opportunities for growth.
Moderate Muslims, moderate political leaders must have the courage to see the link between certain antiquated religious practices, poverty (lack of education) and therefore the propensity for violence. The issues in the North are not particular to Nigeria. The difference, however, between resolving these issues and constantly repeating the same mistakes, is committed, enlightened leadership. In many resource dependent economies, where one tribe, party or ethnic group has dominated political control, wealth is distributed unequally (there is a correlation between unequal wealth distribution and violence) and rather than social status achieved based on ideas or merit, one tends to progress based on favouritism, discretionary allocations and political proximity. Corruption is thus the central problem in Nigeria and other oil dependent economies. Therefore, what we need in Nigeria, is to develop a manufacturing based economy, where we produce goods for export other than oil, value added goods for which we can set and control prices rather than raw materials whose price is decided by foreigners.
In such a society or economy, talented individuals, innovators, rather than political parasites, are rewarded because their contribution to the economy is needed. Sadly (and the truth hurts) most of our governors have neither the education nor the ideas required to re-imagine how their states fit into global or regional economies or what their states could produce to demarcate themselves and provide employment, a long-term strategy to end insurgency.
Strategy to end insurgency
We are at the mercy of many individuals whom in other climes, would not be fit to be assistants talk less of decision makers, and this is not only to do with a lack of educational qualifications which pervades all levels of our political system.
Most of our leaders, their aides, do not have the ideas or the world view necessary to think critically and laterally about issues. In Kaduna State and its cyclical recurring violence, one finds the embryo of most if not all of the issues pervading the Nigerian state. Identity politics like in most of the Middle Belt, has replaced debates and practical policies over progress.
All over Nigeria, touts and violent men and women recycle themselves as political leaders. President Buhari in 2015 was in the unique position to rid us of corrupt, morally void, idealess elements. Instead, the same idealess cabal elbowed its way into positions of authority, surrounding the one man whom Nigerians believed could make a difference. What next?
THIS Senator is often in the news but for all the wrong reasons. He has been accused of not maintaining a constituency office which he himself confirmed according to certain media reports, obviously leading to many raised eyebrows as Senators receive a sizeable stipend for the maintenance of their constituency offices.
Also, without a constituency office, where do his constituency projects emanate from? Wasn’t the whole tussle between the executive and legislative arms of government in part because of threats to remove the amounts allocated for constituency projects because said sums were allegedly not used for development in the past? As usual in Nigeria, there are many questions but hardly any answers.
WHAT are security votes used for? Why is insecurity so pervasive in Nigeria despite such huge sums budgeted for security since the military era?
Foreign observers marvel at the fact that there has never been a revolution in Nigeria, with the number of allegations and revelations of corruption which pervade our political culture, reading almost like a crime novel or a blockbuster thriller.
Corruption murders Nigerian men, women and children who die due to bad roads, malnutrition, poor healthcare or a lack of opportunity, but most of all, corruption kills our mind-set, we excuse crime, all in favour of ethnicity. How long till we wake up?