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Change: Any Prospect for Nigeria

by Salihu Moh. Lukman

The common saying is that change is constant; so what? Do we desire it? Perhaps, yes! If so, what are we doing to facilitate or accelerate it? This is not a new question, particularly in the context of the debate around challenges of governance, democracy and economic development. The challenge facing Nigeria today borders on how we respond to the question of change.


The general perception in the country is that conditions are degenerating. Economically, more than 50% of the population live below $1.00 per day poverty threshold. 35% live in extreme poverty. Measured in terms of household consumption, 75.5% of our people are poor. The 2007 report of National Bureau of Statistics estimates that 63 million Nigerians go to bed hungry every day. Infant mortality is 110 out of 1000 live birth and maternal mortality is 1000 per 100,000 population.

The World Bank has projected that 99% of the nation's oil revenue accrues only to 1% of the population. This is compounded by very high unemployment rates, which the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimated to be 16%. Underemployment rate was estimated at 17%. These projections, certainly under estimated the unemployment realities facing the country. This is very easy to prove.

First, using the national average household population of six (6), there is hardly any household in the country with less than 2 unemployed persons. Secondly, tertiary graduates' unemployment is 15% per annum with about 600,000 students graduating annually while the labour market can only absorb 10%. In addition, annual employment growth rate is 1% while labour force growth rate is 2.8%. Thirdly, with a total labour force of approximately 60 million, only 4 million Nigerians are on paid employment in both public and private sectors of the economy. Open unemployment of youth aged 15 - 29 is estimated at 60%. In the face of all these, 17% unemployment and 16% underemployment rates are jokes.

What is the prospect that this ugly reality is going to change? What are we doing, whether at the level of governmental, non-governmental organisations or in our private capacities, to facilitate the process of driving our institutions to serve as change catalysts? Or put differently, are we, in anyway, committed to lead the process of change in our society and nation?

Politically, democracy and party systems should produce choices and alternative strategies of addressing problems of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, etc. Unfortunately, we have 'parties' that have failed to offer choices, politicians that are genetically the same and ideologically united. We have governmental and non-governmental institutions that either subvert democratic norms or are feeble and therefore unable to secure liberalism and freedom. As a result, elections are never free and are mockery of every known principles of fairness. Rule of law is reduced to slogan.

Political culture therefore is fundamentally oriented to entrench current realities that allow only 1% of the population to access and enjoy the resources of the nation. The consequence is that although the country was reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria to have earned N8.875 trillion or $71.12 billion between 2002 and 2006 from the sale of oil, only 1% of the population could have benefitted.

Socially, our society and social institutions are perplexed, dilapidated and inept. The family as a primary institution for socialisation, behaviour moulding and support is being eroded. Children are confronted with realities that threatened their future and survival with no support structures. Organisations, at all levels, only serve the leaders, their agenda, work and therefore outcomes only influenced by, and beneficial to managers. To the ordinary citizen, the existence of these organisations, including the family to some extent, constitute a burden.


By the way, this is the result of years, if not decades, of neglect, mismanagement and abuse of resources. It is the common attribute that both characterises and connects preceding governments. This begs the question, why did we allow things to happen this way? Correct or incorrect, how far can our assessment facilitate change?

Geoge Manbiot in his book, THE AGE OF CONSENT: A Manifesto for a New World Order, emphatically made the point that any change worth fighting for will be hard to achieve; indeed if the struggle in which you are engaged is not difficult, you may be confident that it is not worthwhile, for you can be assured by that measure that those from whom you need to wrest power are not threatened by your efforts.

Change in politics, economy and society requires a deliberate, planned, organised and conscious approach. This is today a national imperative in Nigeria, which regrettably is reduced to sloganeering. Interestingly, across the length and breadth of the country, Nigerians have common and modest hopes, which can be reduced to finding jobs that guarantees livelihood. Nigerians want to be able to settle their medical bills, pay school fees for their children, have access to clean water, safe and secure environment, etc.

There are very little illusions today that government meant little to nothing. Few organisations support the hopes of Nigerians. To a considerable extent, the challenge before us today is simply that of creating new organisations that have the necessary orientation, meaning and value to support the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians. These new organisations would then be the levers for new governments with promising programmes and potentials to produce high quality changes in the realities facing citizens.

What are the prospects? 2011 is only about 2 years away. Very soon, politicians will start parading themselves as saints, righteous individuals and saviours requesting for our votes. The process will be driven largely by money-politics. In which case, the elections have been concluded long before the votes. The ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) has won all the states but one. Why is this so and which is the one state that it will not win?

Once money is the driving factor in politics, PDP will emerge victorious because the money that will be employed to campaign is not a function of earned income but largely product of graft, underhand deals and unhindered access to public wealth. This means that the bulk of the resources would be public funds and therefore the current managers of public funds, which dominantly are PDP members, would direct the process.

Ideally, one would have argued that parties controlling other states would, by the same logic, retain their states. Alas! With no exception, given current level of disorganisation confronting all the other parties, combined with the phenomenon of decamping to PDP, it is just a matter of time before the states currently being governed by non-PDP governors' collapse. Zamfara is leading the pack! The only clear exception is Lagos, on account of three main reasons.

The first is that the political team in Lagos state under the leadership of Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola appears to be driven by a commitment to serve. Without fear of contradiction, based on the programmes of the government, one could argue that Lagos state is the only state with functional and viable government. Functional because it is delivering services to citizens and viable because its internally generated revenue is adequate to finance its programmes, projects and services to citizens.

The second reason why it is very unlikely for PDP to conquer Lagos state in 2011 is that political structures in Lagos are well developed and relatively entrenched and therefore could be deployed to protect the interests of citizens. The third factor is that the functionality of government has liberalised the economic environment and made income opportunities accessible.

What of Edo State? At this stage, it is only potentials that require clear organisational and programmatic push. Developed political structures would be needed to serve as the compass for socio-economic development. Current twin parentage of Action Congress and Labour Party in the state must translate into expanded political capacity to mobilise citizens. Also, the expanded political capacity should confer economic opportunities to people. Only then, can we equate Edo with Lagos. Until that happens, Edo remains a potential. The 10,000 jobs programme embarked upon by the state government is certainly a positive move.

The fundamental issue therefore, relates to the management of resources and guaranteeing that leadership represent the best skill, embodies sacrifice, modesty and service. Dispositions to negotiate choices and alternatives with the people would broaden the scope and space for citizens' participation in guaranteeing the realisation of hopes and aspirations of our people.


This is the organisational, leadership and political challenges facing us; if you like, it is the 2011 challenge. How are we going to respond to these challenges? Are we going to be able to produce new organisations that would produce contrasting political values and therefore throw up new sets of politicians? Or, are we just simply re-inventing and reproducing PDP in different guises and forms?

So long as individuals would have to provide almost 100% of the financial resources for their election campaigns, it will be disadvantageous for new initiatives and new politicians to emerge. Why is it not possible for campaign political initiatives to be organised based on delegated community structures with accountability framework such that the candidate is only a functionary? In other words, the candidate is selected based on established criteria and by that measure could be disciplined accordingly, including dropping him/her.

The main focus thus is the ward and local government levels. The theoretical orientation would then be bottom up rather than the current top down approach where the focus is on higher offices. As we progress toward 2011, the political landscape will be saturated with people aspiring for Gubernatorial, Senatorial and House of Representatives positions. And it is these people that would dictate placements for offices at lower levels i.e. house of assembly, local government chairmen and councillors.

Often times, it will be a case of positioning cronies and yes people. Because of this approach, you find that there is no any form of correlation either with reference to performance or any other rational index driving issues of vertical mobility in our polity. As long as this is the case, political progression will be driven by access to resources and capacity to steal.

We need to pose clear alternatives that are capable of emphasising our collectivity, resourcefulness and modesty. It should be possible to organise these campaign structures with credible people at local level directing the campaigns and resources managed collectively. These campaign teams don't have to be partisan. It would then be possible for campaign teams to be expanded to serve more than a candidate. If you like, they could be cross-partisan, drawing participation across two, three or more parties and to that extent supporting candidates for different offices. That would then make it possible for campaign teams to finance the political activities of more than one candidate even if such candidates are poor.

Once the campaigns are directed by skilful people, interest negotiations and reconciliation is possible and political contest would then become a game. The main thrust of the game is the development of strategic programme that seeks to enable the realisation of the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians. The scope for the activities of these campaign structures would determine to a great extent the spread of coverage and the propensity for political change to happen nationally.

What we do today, individually and collectively therefore is the determinant. Lamenting about current situation will not produce political change; joining the bandwagon of money politicians will only consolidate PDP rule, entrench current unjust setup and increased the misery of our people.

Help setup community political action groups today; begin to form community campaign teams in our localities; mobilise humble, credible and resourceful people to provide leadership for our community campaign structures; and help facilitate political change in Nigeria NOW!

Salihu Moh. Lukman


Suite 301, Zeto Court

No. 3 Oshogbo Close

Area 11, Garki



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