By Sunny Ikhioya
IT is nice to observe that the Nigerian Press has resolved to stay put in Nigeria, instead of taking a “trip to Afghanistan” at this crucial phase of our democracy. This is in spite of having seen some of our people’s advocates, who the masses have been looking up to, cross over to the other side. In the words of Yinka Odumakin “in the mode of keeping quiet in eating season”.
Nigerians cannot be certain of achieving their common goals if affairs of the nation continue to be run in a skewed, assymetric and one sided manner. The fears have been expressed in the past, of whether Nigeria can attain balance, how the interests and fears of all ethnic nations can be accommodated and how equity can prevail in the distribution of resources. There is no superior or inferior race, all ethnic nations are equal, as far as it concerns their fundamental rights.
That is why the 1997constitution drafting committee advised the federal military government of the time as follows: “there had in the past been inter-ethnic rivalry to secure the domination of government by one ethnic group or combination of ethnic groups to the exclusion of others. It is, therefore, essential to have some provisions to ensure that the predominance of persons from a few ethnic or other sectional groups is avoided in the composition of government or the appointment or election of persons to high offices of the state”.
This must have led to the provision in Section 14(3) of the 1999 constitution, that “the composition of government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies.”
Other relevant sections are 147(3) and 171(5) of the 1999 constitution, which are still applicable till date. It is in our laws and it is binding on everyone, especially on those in positions of leadership. If the President hasn’t found time to go through the details, there are advisers and top civil servants to draw his attention to it. As it is now, it does not seem like the people in government are following the path dictated by the constitution and the consequences will not bode well for the future unity of the nation, if urgent and far reaching remedies are not put in place.
It is interesting to see how the federal personnel structure has changed in the past few years, if the changes we are witnessing have resulted in positive development for the country. The story would have been different, but, we are witnessing several steps backwards for each decision taken that has ethnic or religious colourations. If you visit the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, you will find that people from a particular part of the country have taken dominance, while indigenes of the oil producing ethnic nations are not given consideration.
I don’t understand how this federal government can convince one that the personnel policies that they have introduced for the NNPC is the best for the country. You cannot claim that you understand the business of producing crude and refined oil more than those who were born and bred in it. It is a matter of shame to the whole country, that we still have to depend on foreign imports for our refined petroleum products, over five decades after oil was discovered in our land. Even the coming of Dangote refinery, if not properly handled, will not eliminate these perennial challenges.
The processing of crude oil does not require rocket science, the locals are doing it. After more than 50 years of drilling crude oil in our land, we should be able to handle the refining without a single foreign input. We must put our acts together, get the required professionals within and task them to come up with solutions. It does not have to be big ones like the refinery that Dangote is building, but the modular type. That should be the focus of government and all those at the helm of affairs at the NNPC and not seeking of domination. We should apply backward integration in the sector.
Why they are bent on taking control over this vital aspect of our economy is neither here nor there. The simple fact remains that the whole country is suffering from these parochial decisions. The “I belong to nobody” statement of the President at inauguration was a catchy phrase that got everyone on his side, but over the last four years, we are yet to see its manifestation.
There is strength in diversity, if properly administered. The federal character policy of appointments should be strictly followed in all government appointments, giving the bodies ample opportunities to sample inputs from diverse regions.
The way it is run now, every section will be waiting for its turn to have control of the national cake. It is important for our leaders to listen to sentiments of the people, it is not an act of cowardice or fear for leadership to yield to the people. In their book Real Power, James Autry and Stephen Mitchell made it clear that “it is an act of strength to let go of old definitions of power and to remain flexible, soft and ready to yield”. The bane of this government is the difficulty in making them to change their decisions, even when the route they have chosen is not yielding the required results.
The authors also quoted Tao-Tzu, the Chinese legend who said: “men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life…” You cannot give what you do not have and no one person is a repository of knowledge and wisdom.
The wise ruler is the one who listens to his people, wisdom requires that he takes all persons under his rule into consideration and not to give favour to one over others. This is why the authors added that “for governing a country well, there is nothing better than moderation. The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas…nothing is impossible for him because he has to let go.”
Moderation in this instance means “letting go of pressure to make the popular choice and making the best choice. It means being even handed and fair. It requires letting go of all your preconceptions and being ready to make the best ofevery situation.” Is somebody listening?