By Tabia Princewill
The level of political illiteracy in Nigeria is dangerous. The manipulation of the masses into acting against their own interests remains one of the strategies of those who selfishly believe that Nigeria and all its riches belong to them alone.
We are yet to successfully tackle the real issues which cause Nigeria’s underdevelopment because they are much too messy and would mean questioning the very foundations upon which our dirty social contract of oppression and dominance is laid. The question of bad leadership and its consequences for governance and lack of positive outcomes for the average Nigerian has been over analysed but with few concrete or observable benefits. We are a nation with a deep, frustrating and highly ironic understanding of its problems which can never quite find the will to solve them, simply because solving them runs counter to the interests of a few.
If one considers that most of the countries which made the successful transition from ‘third world to first in a generation’ (to quote Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore who ‘ruled’ his country for 30 years in a system of governance which has been referred to as autocratic yet successful), have been military dictatorships, then the question of why Nigeria’s military rulers did not transform Nigeria comes down to a failure of leadership. Our many ethnic groups are not to blame. Our religious tendencies are not to blame. Neither is our population. We were once awash with petrodollars which we didn’t put to good use.
Actually, the period of military rule would have been the perfect time to restructure. If not for our close-mindedness, greed and opportunism, if, again, the leaders at the time had meant what they announced during their coup speeches about social justice and corruption, they could have been as committed as leaders of South Korea, a country which witnessed record growth and development after President Park Chung Hee’s coup in 1961. Democracy, restructuring, whatever structure of governance is chosen, does not guarantee gains for the common man unless a country’s leadership is committed to it being so.
Many states in Nigeria have not been led by credible, creative or well-meaning Nigerians. What really needs restructuring is the political primary process that rewards incompetence and a lack of ideas with a party’s nomination form. In fact, what we really should be restructuring is the mind-set that enables one to vote for a candidate without knowing his or her plans.
Of course, Nigeria does need some restructuring. But not the sort where one region blames another for its shortcomings. I don’t believe that federal allocation to the North is the reason why anyone in the East is poor. I believe that if former governors in both regions were made to answer for what happened to ecological funds, for example, both to tackle erosion and desertification, life, both in the East and the South, would be greatly improved. The poverty facing Nigerians today comes as a result of poor planning at state and federal levels. Politicians have allowed and encouraged Nigerians to vilify and blame each other while refusing to take any responsibility for their actions. Roads aren’t bad in the South-East because we don’t practise ‘true federalism’. They are bad because we have poor institutional processes, poorly enforced checks and contracts are endlessly awarded without any work getting done.
Truthfully only states such as Lagos will benefit from restructuring. Lagos has a professional attitude to governance which is lacking in many parts of the country. Even without a federal allocation, during the years the state was singled out for belonging to a different party, its government was creative enough to literally find a way where there was no way and finance its projects, etc. One doesn’t routinely see such effort or commitment all around Nigeria. Are the states ready and able to absorb the responsibilities of the Federal Government should restructuring, the way it is presently discussed, occur?
The Federal Government, in the past, obstructed states such as Lagos and the rest of the South West from undertaking certain projects which it believed should be under its purview. Goodluck Jonathan, a former President who himself was a former governor, did not, when in power, make much noise about restructuring. He didn’t implement the Confab report despite spending billions on the whole event. Atiku, himself a former Vice-President had little to say on the subject when he was the number two citizen. The greatest advocates of restructuring are curiously people who’ve always been in power and have had many opportunities to lead the process, except that then, it apparently wasn’t politically beneficial to them. As for those clamouring ‘no restructuring, no elections in 2019’, they are the most dangerous of all. Not only are they the product of certain special interests hoping to co-opt Nigeria once again, they have no mandate and therefore no right to speak for entire segments of the population, many of whom seem too scared to voice their true feelings for fear of reprisals.
Privatisation and concession arrangements in Nigeria have pauperised the majority leaving Nigerians worse off. Yet, nobody seems to be talking about how to make these assets work for all, rather than the few who’ve cornered them. We worship those who fund the clamour for restructuring and we all nod our heads subserviently, accepting whatever we’re told is best for us, never stopping to ask ourselves why certain people support this agenda. The restructuring commonly referred to is nothing more than another sharing of the national cake, where only crumbs will go to the poor and middle classes. Yes, ideally, states should have a greater level of autonomy. This is the case in countries where real checks and balances exist to stop individuals from going on a rampage with public goods. We are yet to successfully try any of our past looters for corruption. Yet, restructuring would amount to giving their stooges, which they have artfully groomed and strategically placed all over Nigeria, more power, more access to resources, and a virtually unlimited capacity to become mini-despots.
Countries, systems of government, democracies, even dictatorships (Saudi Arabia isn’t a democracy yet it outpaces Nigeria in all social welfare indices) are only as good (or as bad) as those who lead them. So, claiming that political structures are to blame for this country’s lack of generalised development is simply a ruse perpetuated by men and women in dire need of an excuse (or a means of returning to power).
Christian Elders Forum
They claim the Federal Government wants to Islamise Nigeria. It’s time we give these fantasies and delusions a rest. So-called ‘Christian Elders’ should stand up for the people on the real socio-economic matters keeping them poor and disenfranchised. Where are the Christian Elders when churches collapse and kill members, or ordinary people are caught in the cross hairs of gang wars involving men known to them, whose funds they happily accept and call blessed? Enough hypocrisy and political manipulation. The truth, unlike what this group claimed, isn’t being criminalised as ‘hate speech’. The problem is that some religious leaders have partnered with the people’s oppressors to popularise many false narratives. One can only wonder if some of these religious organisations bank accounts and financial history could withstand public scrutiny.
The Senator said in a press conference that the PDP lost the 2015 elections due to imposition of candidates and ‘disobedience of internal democracy tenets’. She went on to say that the party hadn’t learnt its lesson and repeated the same mistake in the Anambra gubernatorial primaries from which she withdrew in protest against some irregularities. She compared the injustice done to her to seeing ‘a hole and blindly walking into it’. Nigerians have been walking into this hole, falling deeper and deeper, their entire lives and one can’t help but wonder when the people will free themselves from those who speak out of both sides of their mouths.
Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.