August 3, 2023

Nigeria in need of radical change — Odinkalu, Ohwahwa, others

Ernest Adegunle Shonekan

Professor Chidi Odinkalu

…call for revamp of nation’s political economy

By Luminous Jannamike, ABUJA

Prominent individuals, including Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, a former Chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, have called for radical systemic change in Nigeria, citing the nation’s issues with corruption, impunity, mal-governance, and instability.

They argue that these problems stem from a culture of dishonesty and a lack of accountability, particularly within public institutions.

These observations were made at the 5th Annual Public Lecture and the 10th anniversary of the club held in Abuja, the nation’s capital, on Wednesday.

The speakers rallied around the idea that Nigeria’s political economy needs a ‘reset’, emphasizing that the current system shows little concern for accurately accounting for its citizens, their votes, or their money.

Odinkalu, who delivered the keynote speech titled “Resetting Nigeria,” lamented, “Many of Nigeria’s crises boil down to one fundamental issue: our inability to count honestly, coupled with the fact that our public institutions and professionals have fostered a system where dishonest counting and accounting bear no consequences.

“We have created a political economy that has no interest in accounting its citizens, their votes, their money or accounting for any of these.”

According to him, the absence of rational politics and civic responsibility is seen as a significant threat to the nation’s stability.

“We are at a point where violence has become largely democratized and threatens generalized instability on the country if we don’t address it honestly and urgently,” he stated.

Odinkalu also condemned the ‘deliberate political innumeracy’ and fraudulent accounting practices that they believe have been legitimized through legal instruments.

He argued, “To preserve our innumeracy of public accounts, we have used everything from coercive instruments to commissions of inquiry whose reports have never been seen. In over half a century as a country, we have never held a credible census.”

He further criticized Nigeria’s reliance on allocation rather than production, labeling it a ‘structural crisis.’

Barr. Frank Tietie, the Executive Director of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), noted that this reliance undermines both macro and micro justice, erodes legitimacy, and leads to widespread violence and instability.

Other speakers also highlighted the consequences of systemic dishonesty.

However, they expressed hope in the newly elected federal and state governments, urging them to seize this ‘historical opportunity’ to make a positive difference in the lives of the Nigerian people.

In his address, Fred Ohwahwa, President of Just Friends Club of Nigeria, echoed this sentiment and noted the club’s growth and diversity over the years.

“Our club has been growing in leaps and bounds, especially in the current year. For the first time, we now have women as members. We have also expanded in terms of the ages of members and their geographical places of origin,” Ohwahwa said.

Ohwahwa also referenced the club’s ongoing commitment to social outreach in addition to its public lecture series, underscoring the relevancy of the lecture’s theme, “Resetting Nigeria”, in the current socio-political climate.

“We need to reset ourselves at the individual, communal, corporate, and government levels. We need a rebirth as a people. Otherwise, we will keep wallowing in the doldrums.

“There are new governments in place at the Federal and State levels. They have a historical opportunity to seize the initiative and make a positive difference in the lives of the people.

“Time will tell whether they will rise to the demands of these times,” Ohwahwa stated.

The event featured a variety of perspectives on how to improve the country from other eminent figures present.

The discussions aimed to provide attendees with a better understanding of the dynamics of Nigeria.

The event ended on a hopeful note, with the speakers urging political leaders to make Nigeria ‘a reference point for Africa and Africans.’