Date Published: 11/15/09
THE ONLY WAY FORWARD FOR NIGERIA. By Dr. M.M. Wokili
As a frequent traveler outside our borders, I know by experience that Nigeria and Nigerians are rightly not respected anywhere in the world. The first thing that comes to mind with the name ‘Nigeria’ is corruption and deception. One is automatically guilty of these vices until you proof yourself otherwise. Our bad national image has been cultivated and nurtured to maturity over the past decades by successive regimes in this country. Our image is the bye-product of unbridled corruption, avarice, false democracy as presently practiced in this country, indiscipline and loss of morale values by the generality of Nigerians as exemplified by various successive self imposed leaders. We are currently not practicing democracy but ‘DEMONcrazy’ which is flagrant demonstration of demonic craziness with impunity. Elections are rigged coupled with violence, public pronouncements of our leaders are the exact opposite of what they practice, the law enforcement agents are compromised, the ordinary folks out there have lost confidence on the judiciary, dishonesty governs the leadership while deception becomes the compass. This has been the story for decades. While a few people are swimming in the ocean of affluence, majority of Nigerians are wearing oversized garments of poverty decorated with ornamental frustration. The universities are churning out graduates in hundreds of thousands every year without jobs thereby grooming them into future armies of revolution. Insecurity as expressed in assassinations and kidnappings is the order of the day! How do we come out of this quagmire?
I find out that the only difference between the people in the western world and Nigerians is the quality of leadership offered which is a reflection of the administrative structures in place. Aside from this, Nigerians and the westerners (Americans, Britons, French, and Germans etc) are basically the same and will behave the same way under the same conditions. The westerners and Nigerians have the same natural instincts for bad and good, it is the administrative structure in the society that shapes the conduct of the people by promoting either of the instincts with the other one diminished. Whichever instinct is consistently promoted over a period of time becomes the culture/value/norm of that society just like corruption is a standard value in the present day Nigeria. This goes to say that if Americans were to be evacuated to Nigeria and vice-versa, over a very reasonable period of time, the corrupt administrative structural system in Nigeria will wear out the dominant positive attitude of the Americans and gradually reduce them to the level of Nigerians. That is why majority of Nigerians residing overseas behave like their hosts and on their return back home, they change to be the usual Nigerians. The problem is not the people but the administrative structures and leadership. Leadership uses structural administrative system to change the society for good or bad.
Nigerians are the most obedient set of human species that I have ever seen and they are excellent copy-cats of their leaders. They sheepishly follow the foot-steps and direction of their leaders without questioning. The present Nigerians that are perceived at overseas as the most corrupt on earth are reflective of the leadership and will turn out to be the most decent on earth once the leadership gets it right! Even the leadership is a victim of the deficient administrative structures. So, the problem is essentially not that of any party, regime, tribe or individual but the structural system that encourages all forms of negative vices, hence the need for fundamental and holistic changes.
The state and federal administrative structural set-ups should be fundamentally changed to achieve a truly democratic society where the rule of law reigns supreme above everyone including the presidency. The law enforcement agents like the Police, EFCC, SSS, NIA, etc should be completely and truly independent in terms of funding and administration as it obtains in the western world. The press should be empowered by law to request for, obtain and publish documents that border on corruption and any other matters that are of public interest without being harassed by law enforcement agents. INEC should be truly and completely independent in terms of funding and administration, receiving orders from no one. The judiciary both at state and federal levels, should be truly and completely independent and no state or federal executive should have any form of power/influence on the judiciary by making the appointment, promotion and dismissal of local, state and federal judges the sole responsibility of the National Judicial Council without seeking the permission or approval from anyone. Nigerians irrespective of their ethnicity should be able to seek for and get employment based on merit anywhere in the country. The retrogressive policy of quota-system just like the rotational presidency, should be abolished to generate healthy competition and innovation among Nigerians. We should amend our constitution so that there will be no presidential election and the best performing state governor is chosen by a completely neutral and independent body as the President of the country irrespective of his/her tribe, location or party affiliation. This method will ginger rapid development throughout the country. Depending on his performance, the chosen President may continue beyond the initial four-years-term provided he emerges the best competitor among other state governors. If this type of system were to be in place before now, a ‘Fashola of Lagos mould’ stands a very good chance of becoming our next president and just imagine where Nigeria will be in another four years with his leadership style!
Mrs. Hillary Clinton is a native of Illinois and yet represented the State of New York in the American Senate. Obama’s father is from Kenya and yet he is the President of America despite the fact that he comes from the black minority and just because he was born in America. That is healthy competition and meritocracy at work - the bedrock of American prosperity! Our present administrative structures make all these impossible in Nigeria.
Anyone caught in corrupt acts should have all their properties and accounts forfeited to the government in addition to jail sentences with possible death penalty. Electoral malpractices should attract capital punishment because such culprits are toying with the lives of millions of Nigerians! To me, corruption is the most dangerous and potent ‘weapon of mass destruction’! It kills enmass via road accidents, typhoid as a result of untreated water, simple diseases due to lack of adequate medical provisions etc as the budgeted funds are embezzled. When leaders at Local, State and Federal levels know that they can be exposed by the press, arrested by the police and arraigned before judges for maximum punishment without anybody (including the President) having the power to intercede, everyone will be on his/her toes!
Election rigging will seize and elected leaders will have no option but to serve the people or else end up in jail. Militancy will fizzle away because leaders (executives and law makers) can be held responsible for their actions by the poor using instrumentalities of law without any hindrance or fear, assured that pure justice will be applied. ‘God-fatherism’ in Nigerian politics will not find any footing. Graduates will not be roaming the streets for jobs reserved for the ‘connected’ ones that are even less qualified. Folks will grow according to their respective potentials for the common good without having to know any ‘big man’ up there. Chief Executives will be bound to develop their respective states infrastructurally because they can’t steal the money. Consequently, factories will spring up from the private sector, unemployment will be eliminated, the gap between the poor and rich will be minimized while less money will be spent on security because crime will be at the lowest ebb with foreign investors trooping into the country.
There will be no need wasting billions of naira in re-branding Nigeria instead of MENDing it through administrative structural adjustments. It is this type of administrative structures in America that distinguish the Americans from Nigerians. Many weeks ago, I was in Jacksonville in Florida when President Obama recanted his statements made 24 hrs earlier where he described the action of a white Police Sergeant (Mr. James Crowley) that arrested a black Harvard Professor (Henry Louis Gates) in his very own house as ‘stupid’. The police community did not take kindly to the presidential remarks and the Sergeant even went to the extent of demanding for an apology from President Obama! The sergeant had the temerity of going to that extent because he is sure of the justice system and administrative structures in place in America. He knows that President Obama has no power to order dismissal of any police man or woman in America! President Obama was even humble enough to phone the police Sergeant inviting him to the White House. The only difference between us and the Americans are the administrative structures in place and the universal application of the rule of law without anyone, including Obama, having the power to intercede in the course of law enforcement. Making the Law enforcement agents truly independent of the Executives in Nigeria is the ONLY way forward for Nigeria if not we will continue to grope in darkness in futility. Mega party formation, rebranding, WAI etc can not solve the problems. No policy or legislation can work in Nigeria without these structural changes as law enforcement and administration will always be frustrated and abridged by powers that be from above.
Only recently the Republican Party gubernatorial candidates defeated the sitting democratic governors in the two states of Virginia and New Jersey via the most recent elections in America because the structural administrative system in America absolutely makes it impossible for Obama to influence the outcome! If he dares it, he looses his presidential seat and faces prosecution thereafter. That is the only type of system that will save Nigeria! Here in Nigeria, the garrison commanders of the PDP will consider it as a slap on the face of the president for any other party to win such elections. They are not to blame. Any party in power will do the same thing as long as the present administrative structural system is in place. Echoes of lamentations and wailings of the poor in Kogi and other states where by-elections were held are still deafening.
It amuses me when I read about the proposed formation of a mega party by the opposition parties in Nigeria. Are these great, progressive, patriotic and selfless Nigerians bereft of ideas and strategies? Formation of a mega party is not the solution – it is even an indictment on the part of the proponents in view of their and everybody’s belief that PDP did not win most of the last elections including the presidential one! Unknown to them, the impression they are creating in the mind of the people is that the PDP is too popular with the masses and the only way to defeat it in the next elections is through formation of a mega party --- this is not true!! I wish to clearly state here that I do not belong to any political party. Driven purely by regional passion, the last vote that I cast was for Alhaji Usman Shehu Shagari that eventually presided over a lame duck and corrupt administration – an action that I still regret till date. That rear gem-star of our generation, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, deserved the precious vote. Alternatively, I could have given it to the great defender of the masses, Mallam Aminu Kano of blessed memory.
I make bold to say that PDP, Iwu, the President and State Chief Executives are not the problems of our country. They are just victims and creations of circumstances and any party in power will behave the same way as PDP because of the deficient administrative structures in place which is the root of all evils in Nigeria! Let the present administrative structure be replaced as suggested above and you will find almost all our problems fizzling away. Afterall, some PDP state governments performed and are performing well like Donald Duke, the President when he was the governor of Katsina State, Makarfi of Kaduna State during his first tenure and others. The President, as PDP governor of Katsina State, constructed the best state secretariat that I have ever seen, renovated schools --- in short the only state where I have seen even primary schools in storey buildings, fenced and well equipped, built networks of roads, hospitals, standard state airport etc. Though, I once met with Donald Duke at Calabar and the President at Heathrow airport in the year 2005 when he was still governor of Katsina State, I have never received any form of patronage from any of the PDP governors mentioned above!
The question is – how do we bring about the necessary administrative structural changes? This is where the progressives (the mega party proponents), the Nigerian Labour Congress, the civil societies, the students, oil workers and the progressive elements across all parties including the PDP can form a pressure group/coalition for representation to the government for these changes (including the UWAIS electoral reforms) to be implemented without any form of dilution and if does not work out, then, the last resort will be through massive, decisive but peaceful civil disobedience/strike as it happened during the Kokori’s NUPENG era. Everyone will sit at home as long as necessary until these reforms are carried out. It is only then the objectives of mega party formation can be realized. That is the ONLY way forward for Nigeria! You can’t plant a seed (good objective) in a rock (our present system) and expect it to germinate (good governance)! All the security agents must be independent in funding and in administration. Ditto for INEC and the Law courts. They must be detached from the aprons of the Executives. Every court order must be implemented immediately by the police without seeking prior permission from the Executives.
In view of our abundant natural and human resources available, Nigeria can be the best place to live on earth if we have the right administrative structures in place henceforth. Nigerians are generally hardworking, intelligent and making waves in the academics and various professions abroad. We beat the whites academically when we go abroad to school. Only few people know that the ‘father of internet’, Engr. Emeagwali residing in America is a Nigerian! Without Emeagwali, the internet that we are using today could have probably taken a longer time to realize! Have you forgotten the encomiums poured on him by President Clinton when he visited Nigeria during his presidency? There are millions of better Emeawaglis in Nigeria rotting away just because they don’t have these despotic, suppressive and needless Godfathers to propel them in life. The natural resources are in abundant lying dormant underground while we focus only on the perishing crude oil. What a great, rich and potentially viable country being decimated on the slaughter slab of corruption and maladministration! Here come the structural changes to the rescue! The changes will provide a level playing field for everyone to grow according to his/her potentials in life and at pace dictated by him/her. For those of us that are not less than 50 years, I sincerely hope that we will witness a truly ‘born-again’ Nigeria before we cross the great bridge to eternity.
The Nigerian President will be remembered as the father of modern Nigeria even by generations unborn if he can devote his tenure in effecting these fundamental structural changes within our system before the next election. It will be foolhardy for any other party except PDP, to participate in the next general elections without these fundamental changes. The result will be as usual --- selection through imposition – NOT election! May God Almighty grant the President the willingness, courage and wisdom to start and finish these changes. We can not achieve the American status overnight but we need to start from the right direction just like Ghana. If these suggestions are implemented, I have no doubt that Nigeria will be like an European country in the next 30 years in terms of development and good governance with the available natural and human resources in abundance.
Finally, I pay wish to pay tribute to our living heroes like Prof. Wole Soyinka, Ambassodor Maitama Sule, Alh. Balarabe Musa, Col. Abubakar Umar, the youthful but restless Barrister Keyamo, Olu Falaye, Pa Enahoro, Opadokun, Gen. Buhari, Olu Falaye, Dr. Joe Okei and others too numerous to be mentioned here including those even within the government that belief in anti-corruption crusade but whose thin voices are being drowned by the roaring voices of devouring corruption.
God bless a united Nigeria. I love you Nigeria and Nigerians!
Dr. M.M. Wokili writes from Kaduna.