By Yinka Odumakin
DEAR Mr. Governor, “People are talking about artificial intelligence, other nations are talking about nano technology or robotics engineering but unfortunately, the topical issue in Nigeria is restructuring. Restructuring my foot! To hell with restructuring.
Let us improve on governance, let us work for the people, invest in education, create jobs for our people, this madness will stop”.
The above were your words not only as Alhaji Kashim Shettima but also governor of Borno state at the book launch of Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi, the spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Abuja a few days ago.
In three sentences you used three uncouth phrases that would make any reasonable mind conclude it was Mallam Shekau making one of his inflammatory and hate speeches for which he has become famous as an outlaw.
A state governor with a tempered mind and modicum of civilisation should not have descended into the gutter over an issue of national importance which eminent personalities and senior citizens have taken a position.
Do you by any stretch of imagination suggest that former Military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida; former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; eldestateman Chief Ayo Adebanjo, First Republic Minister, Chief Edwin Clark, your colleague governors including all of the South and many others too numerous to mention are all engaged in a mad talk? That only you and few enemies of an inclusive and affluent Nigeria that restructuring will guarantee are the sane ones?
The manner in which you spoke would have been okay if it was a speech in Boko Haram’s camp and not a national platform where serious issues about the future of our country was being discussed.
Again,for those who lack understanding,restructuring means only one thing :to restore Nigeria to a federal status where productivity is the cornerstone of governance as against the anti-development unitary structure that we currently operate and which is at the heart of all the crises bedeviling our country at the moment. You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar (attendance of Secondary School is sufficient ) to understand that we are not at ease in Nigeria today because our politics has descended into inter ethnic struggles over rents. And we cannot get out of this quagmire unless we construct alternative paradigm that makes every space in Nigeria a centre of productivity.
When we go through a hollow ritual of budget presentation as we just did and economic illiterates hear N8.6 trillion, the tendency may be to clap for your ill-informed comments that “to hell with restructuring, let’s talk good governance.” It takes tutored minds to realise that the heavy sounding Naira figure is just $23b for 200 million people as against $25b Shagari budgeted for 80m in 1983. Poverty will still be our lot even if we stopped corruption and do not expand our productive base which will not happen for as long as we have those 68 items including mines on the exclusive list being supervised by the Federal Government .
Those of you taking advantage of the system under the unitary structure and sharing culture that we operate may not know what the majority of our people North and South. are currently going through The World Poverty Clock has just come out with projection that Nigeria will become the World Headquarters of Poverty in less than 90 days. By February 2018, Nigeria will overtake India as the country with the most people in extreme poverty. For context, India has fives times the population of Nigeria. According to World Bank standards, living in extreme poverty is living on less than $1.90 (N680) per day. People living in extreme poverty are unable to meet even the barest minimal needs for survival.
But for as long as you take your security votes, Paris Club slush funds, and budget support, the rest of the people can go to that place you want whatever you don’t fancy to go to:hell.
You want us to improve on governance and ignore the architecture of it. That’s just fine!But how much of good governance have you been able to provide in Borno in the last six years?In 2016,your state collected N73b from the Federation Account generating only N2b representing only 4% of your revenue and the lowest in the country. It is on record that you stoutly resisted the Good Governance Tour in 2013!
Would you be going about in flowing agbada parading yourself as a governor on the basis of N2b budget in a year?What happens to Borno if oil stops flowing today on the basis of this sharing?
This is the imperative of restructuring.Borno is blessed with:Silica Sand, Natural Salt, Sapphire, Topaz, Mica, Quartz, Gypsum, Uranium, Iron Ore, Alluvial, Magnesite, Feldspar, Granite, Aquamarine, Nepheline, Limestone, Kaolin, Bentonite, Laterite Clay, Refractory Clay, Trona, Gold, Tin, Kaolinitic Clay, Potash, Fullers Earth, Diatomite.
The current constitution says only the Federal government can touch these materials while some indolent governors are content with going with begging bowls to Abuja.Nigeria needs men and women who can appreciate what we are talking about at the helm of affairs.
While we endure the idiocy that prevents development in Nigeria for this season, defenders of the rotten status quo should speak gently(da taushi,da laushi in Hausa)
By the way, you listed my late good friend Oronto Douglas among “reactionaries” in your reckless emissions at the book launch. Do you know Oronto at all?Do your findings about him (or ask an aide rather) and you will know it is too late in this lifetime for you to attain the kind of mind Oronto possessed!
Re: Time to take back our country: Is now a good time?
I TOTALLY agree with you on the need for the peoples of Nigeria to march towards a greater destiny, far away from the trappings of parochialism and nepotism that has blinded us for more than half a century as a modern state. We all were witnesses to the Arab spring, as the ground caved in beneath the feet of the ruling elite…sinking them into oblivion and prosecution like it did to the imperial Romanovs a hundred years ago. In the Russia of 1917, the people were ready to take back their country from the tsarists. But, are Nigerians ready to unseat the career thieves we call leaders? Governor El-rufai, the Nigerian crusader of all-things-right and of all-things-as-it-should-it-be, has proven that there is a cankerworm in education in thiscountry following the recent events in his state. He has gone further to take action…to take back his state. But I wonder if it was truly the right thing to do in the light of accusations and seeming facts that the sack of the unqualified teachers was based on ethnic bias and that his government encouraged illiterates to also take the test. In trying to solve and probably heal the education sector in his state, he has brought to the forefront the deep resentments that lie in the minds and hearts of the people of southern Kaduna…talk that cannot be swept under the carpet…talk of disenfranchisement, of ethnic cleansing and of a potential genocide. These are claims that the state government is yet to answer to. There is nothing from the intelligence arm of our security agencies…everyone carries on as if nothing was and will ever go wrong. Such things as these, make one wonder if it is truly time to take back our country in the manner that you project.
With so much disparity in the complexity of the plural nature of the Nigerian society; there seems to be forces that have sworn never to allow the achievement of a state of wholeness for our country. These forces are brought to bear by the daily decisions of the ruling elite…with their one-sided political appointments and insensitive executive orders that alienate majority more than the few. One would wonder why the governor of Imo State would put up a statue of Jacob Zuma of South Africa when there is none of such in South Africa of a former Nigerian president… or even a governor. Couldn’t he have done the usual commissioning of uncompleted/flag-off projects that is common in the state than having to deify Zuma with state resources? With all the promises of the government at the centre, electricity supply keeps dwindling and figures, by their calculations, keep showing that the country is out of the recession and yet our politicians speak about 2019 as if the air they breathe belonged to them; with enduring longevity assured by their stolen wealth. The electoral system allows criminals to contest and the elected do their very best to frustrate every form of transparency. Is this worth taking back? A country where criminals are immortalised and good men disappear into nothingness? I bet that many would disagree.
What I do agree to, is that Nigeria cannot make it beyond the competence and ethical content of its leaders in a warped and dysfunctional structure like you pointed out. It is that structure that makes it difficult to reclaim whatever is left of Nigeria; a structure that is bent on seeing it implode into shards and melting pieces. We cannot take back a legacy of corruption being passed down from the older to the younger, nor can we stand the putrid electoral body with its adherence to the power of incumbency phenomenon and its ethno-religious affiliations. We cannot take back or salvage what we have come to know as the federal republic of Nigeria, unless it is restructured and reframed to a parliamentary system of government with true federalism in place.
That is the only way to stop the local council worker from blaming Buhari for making things worse without first pointing fingers at the council chairman. That way, the culture of non-elected caretaker committees that sit criminally on allocated funds will be phased out. That is the only way to stop the massive embezzlements coined in different phrases like the security vote that governors receive monthly. It is the only way to prevent anticipated bloodshed in general elections. It is the only way to etch secularist ideals into the minds of religious fanatics and make them see that religion was made for man…and not man for religion. It is the only way that ethnocentrism in politics would die a natural death…on the altar of parliamentary checks and unionist ideals.
If there is no restructuring, Nigeria will one day become the sick-man of Africa; with millions of her educated people trapped in the throes of religious and ethnic divide; with occasional hopes of messianic figures that will come from political parties that wield different logos of gavels, umbrellas, cockerels, brooms and clenched fists; with Messiahs that will always disappoint.
Dr. Ikenna Ejinkeonye.