October 1, 2020

Nigeria @ 60: Gridlocks and the illusive El dorado

For DSO, a new life in a season of expectations

By Bobson Gbinije

IT is a maxim founded on the universal experience of mankind; That no nation is to be trusted farther than it is bound by its interest –George Washington (1732-1799). Letter to Congress. 

WITH peremptory magistracy and awesome gallantry our founding fathers fought with dogged obduracy for the political independence of our glorious country, Nigeria.

They clamoured with no-holds-barred, like the Roman hero Horatius, who fought with Spartan intrepidity defending Rome from the Etruscan invaders. Horatius asked like our founding fathers, “how can a man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods”?

Our founding fathers invested their dreams on Nigeria, but whither goeth Nigeria today? After 60 years of political independence Nigeria is still silhouetted in the sordid saga and tapestry of progressivistic labyrinth.

We are still rumbling in the cabbage of unthinkable corruption, arrant poverty, malaria scourge and arrested development. We are submerged in the cocoon of human rights violations, including politically- motivated assassinations, extra-judicial killings and excessive use of force.

The arrest and detention of people for political reasons, restriction on freedom of the press, speech and assembly, prolonged pre-trial detention and aiding and abetting of electoral malpractices still constitute some dark characteristics of our nation.

We are still sunken in blatant illegalities, tragic criminalities, prebendalistic graft and wallowing in unmitigated sleaze. After 60 years of independence Nigeria still remains shipwrecked in the island of gloom and doom, leadership doppelgangers, political gridlocks, socio-economic cliffhangers, tribal jingoism and utter planlessness.

We have no functional hospitals, no roads, no affordable houses, no jobs and no food security, no light, no effective transport system, no water, no affordable education and no road map and viable blue print for strategic repositioning of our country.

The statesman, Alfred Rewane captures the scenario thus: Yesterday, we yearned for a better tomorrow. Today, we mourn the loss of a better yesterday. How sad? Whither goeth Nigeria after 60 years of political independence?

The politicians and their military cohorts have completely bastardised our psyche. We are crestfallen and despondent. They have made and continue to make half-hearted efforts aimed at salvaging our prostrate fatherland from the abyss of consummate despair.

We have seen endless constitutional reforms, adjustments of economic policies based on the Bretton woods institutions conditionalities like FEM, SFEM, Economic Liberalisation, Deregulation of the Petroleum Downstream Sector, Operation Feed the Nation, OFN, Green Revolution, school to land project, privatisation, liquidity mop-up, cash squeeze, devaluation, universal basic education scheme, civil war, Mamser, KAI, war against indiscipline, subsidy removal, industrial revolution, etc.

These weird economic, socio-political policies successfully bedraggled and befuddled our nation. It asphyxiated our people and manacled them in the epicentre of parenthetical placidity. After 60 years of independence Nigeria is still gallivanting and rigmaroling on an undulating political topography interjected with complex volcanic rocks. We are steeplechasing on a horrendously deadly political land mines and canons that will explode to consume our country.

We are tired of perambulating in the concentric circles of backwardness, buck-passing and trading of blames. What is the way forward? Hence, a Chartered Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Chief Lea Aimiuwu once said, first we blamed the colonial masters; next, military blamed military.

Then politicians blamed military. Now, party blames party, legislature blames executive, executive blames legislature, tribe blames tribe, zone blames zone, private sector blames public sector, public sector blames private sector, followers blame leaders, leaders blames followers”.

Who blames self? Now we turn round and say Nigeria has failed us. But who makes up Nigeria? Nigeria has not failed, we have failed ourselves! Working together, mission-driven, with shared passion and vision-focus: Nigeria Shall Rise Again.

Things work only if we make them work! They work only as we make them work. So Let’s Work The Work!!” This could be a peripheral and simplistic overview of Nigerias problems, but it bears a ring of the horizontal and vertical integration which Nigeria needs to move forward as a nation.

It is sacrosanct truism that after 60 years of independence Nigeria needs implosive surgeonisation of a moral rearmament, ethical revolution, attitudinal re-orientation, leadership altruism, political re-evaluation, policy screening, patriotism and change of psyche with everything and anything that has to do with Nigeria and Nigerians to enable our country make palpable progress. We must don the toga of true democracy, rule of law, dialogue and constitutionality.

We must realise as a nation that our rancid preoccupation with monocausality merely hardens our positions, fossilises debate and limits the boundaries of intellectual discourse. Our search for the panacea to our ever illusive El dorado will be brought to near fruition, if we adopt a more responsible and constructive focus on:

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Leadership by example: It is a quintessential fact that lack of good leadership has been the bane of the Nigerian nation. Right from 1960 till date. We need leaders that can carry the vast majority of Nigerians along through policies that will alleviate the agonies and travails of the people.

Nigeria is a nation formed as a result of the agglomeration of different and myriad groups of heterogeneous peoples and the geo-political setting is complex. We need leaders who understand the political calculus inherent in the system. Leaders that can build on this melting-pot foundation by self- abnegation and patriotism.

A leader that understands that Nigeria is a microcosm in a global macrocosm and that Nigeria must hold and take an enviable seat in the comity of nations. A leader who calls the totality of Nigeria his or her main constituency. A detribalised and cosmopolitanised leader. A leader who understands that leadership is all about people’s welfare through committed and honest leadership.

The essayist Aleng G. White said the greatest need of the world today is the want of men, men who will not be bought or sold, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men who in their innermost souls are true and honest, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who stand for the right though the heavens fall. We need such men as leaders in a new Nigeria.

As the 2023 elections approach, we hope and pray that our leaders will not resort to thuggery, political assassinations, vote-rigging and buying, etc., to get power. It is clear that the political antecedents of our politicians remain hideously ghoulish, but we call on them to put Nigeria first before exercising their pathological quest for power. The political algebra glaringly shows that the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should come from any of the geo-political zone.

We hope that through co-ordinated dialogue the elections will go on without ethnic cleansing, genocide, social schism and the break-up of our country.  Our leaders must hold their vaulting ambition in check. Psychotically corrupt and indicted politicians must not be part of the presidential race in 2023. If they try, it will be a devious attempt and epochal tragedy for the PDP, APC and other contesting parties and our dear country, Nigeria.

Economy: A good, progressive and functional economy, constitute the matrix on which the growth and development of any nation can take place, Nigeria has been quite amorphous in its economic principles and logistics, although we have been called one the fastest growing economies in the world and the highest in Africa.

But the Babangida regime initiated the Breton Institution minored, economy and ever since then, the economic conditionalities demanded by them has completely rubbished the Nigerian economy. It has precipitated horrible sufferings on Nigerians. This is further compounded by Obasanjo’s religious devotion to the conditionalities and Okonjo Iwealas economic contretemps.

The Millennium Development Goals include targets to improve health, water and sanitation, education, gender equality, environment, roll back the tentacles of HIV-AIDs and ensure free primary education for all by the year 2020.

It is now clear that the G8 countries and the Breton Institutions are in a grand ploy to frustrate the development of Africa. It is time to call ourselves to order in Nigeria and start orchestrating new sound economic strategies and principles that are centrifugal and centripetal in their orientation. The current economic policies of Brazil, Russia, India and China must be studied.

They are the fastest growing economies in our world today. Economic husbandry and effective harnessing of resources is about putting food on the peoples table, education, health care delivery, employment, transportation, housing and electricity. All our leaderships have not been able to provide, 60 years of independence. How can Nigeria borrow $13.5billion, paid $42 billion and we still owe $30billion?

The Coalition of NGOs under the auspices of Jubilee Campaign got an approval from the IMF and World Bank to live up to the G8 Gleen eagles agreement by 50 per cent debt reduction and forgiveness to 18 poorest countries in the world, with 14 countries coming out of Africa.

Since Nigeria is a mono-cultural economy the time has come for the oil sector to be properly overhauled and purged of all its hindrances and cleavages like corruption, mismanagement, oil theft and non-accountability.

Nigerians are tired of buying fuel at astronomically high prices caused by the inability of the Nigerian leadership to maintain existing refineries and its refusal to build new ones. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and its subsidiaries of Kaduna Refinery, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, Integrated Data Services Limited, IDSL, Warri Refinery and Petrochemicals Company Limited, WDPC, Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited, PHRC, and Nigeria Gas Company Limited, NGC, must be made to fine-tune logistics for the development of the petrochemical sector and for its economic impact to be felt by Nigerians, especially in the Niger Delta.

The oil multinationals must be prevailed upon to impact positively on the lives of the communities in which they operate. The recurrent youth restiveness and pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta could be checked if they carry their various communities along.

The issue of 50 per cent derivation formula as recommended by the South-South (Niger Delta) delegates to the Nigeria National Reform Conference and the recent National Confab should be implemented to the letter immediately by adopting a middle of the road approach.

Since the discovery of oil in Olobiri, Bayelsa State in 1960 and its subsequent commercialization in 1958 the Niger Delta has not felt the impact of the oil in their land. This will continue to constitute a destabilizing factor in Nigeria. We appeal to the leadership to approve an increase on derivation formula without further delay.

After 60 years of Nigeria’s independence the Niger delta still remains a concrete jungle. The Extractive industry Transparency Initiative, EITI, which is an expenditure guidance initiative must be encouraged. The new members of the Board of Directors of the various oil corporations must be honest, efficient and transparent.

In the light of the new millennium, Nigeria must continue to make strides in economic development by adopting new global strategies. The importance of the New Partnership for Africas Development, NEPAD, NEEDS, SEEDS and such-like bodies must be tapped for macro-economic impact.

An economic Think tank must be set up to look into ways and means of diversifying the Nigerian economy and looking at the logistics of re-launching a New Agricultural Revolution in Nigeria.

It is a shame that Nigeria still remains one of the largest importers of food in the world, whilst China with its over 1.5 billion people feeds itself. A new Operation Feed the Nation, OFN, and a new school to farm project must re-launched.

It is a shame that two thirds of 150 million Nigerians still live on $1 dollar a day. A leadership that cannot feed the people and a nation that cannot feed itself are doomed to perdition. Providing food for the teeming masses should be the cardinal and fundamental concern and priority of government at all levels. The importation of farmers from Zimbabwe is not the answer.

In a recently released United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, Human Development Index substained with scientific development indices such as employment level, quality housing, school enrolment and quality education, food, portable water supply, good roads, health care services used as barometric gauge to place countries in hierarchical order of development category, while relatively poor African countries like Ghana, Uganda. Zimbabwe, Gabon, Liberia and Niger were within the Medium Human Development category better than Nigeria. This is because there is collective amnesia, corruption and leadership inertia.

Bobson Gbinije, a social critic wrote from Warrior, Delta State.